Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which blood pressure is consistently high, subjecting blood vessels to considerable stress. It is the result of a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher, or a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher. Those who are at risk include people who consume foods that are high in calories, fat and cholesterol, exercise less than three times a week, or weigh more than the recommended level. Other lifestyle factors such as alcohol and nicotine consumption can also significantly increase risk.

Conventional Approach
by Dr. Brown
& Alternative Approach

by Dr. Dillard
High blood pressure is usually diagnosed during a routine checkup. Take the opportunity to find out what you can do to gain control over your blood pressure. Most conventional doctors will suggest lifestyle changes before recommending prescription medications.

How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure
Alcohol increases blood pressure in your body, and can interfere with blood pressure medications. To prevent and manage high blood pressure, do not consume more than one drink a day. When blood pressure is high due to excessive drinking, it usually returns to normal levels when drinking is ceased.

How Nicotine Affects Blood Pressure
Nicotine restricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure. Although smoking makes smokers feel relaxed, it actually makes their hearts work harder to pump blood throughout their bodies. Smoking may also damage arteries and make them less flexible. Keep in mind that, although smoking is a strong addiction, your blood pressure will begin to lower within the first day of quitting.

Exercise and Weight Loss remedies
Exercise strengthens the heart, making it a larger and more efficient muscle. Even moderate activity can lower your blood pressure. If you are overweight, incorporating exercise and a low-fat diet into your lifestyle can help.

Drug Therapy remedies
There are some cases when drug therapy is required, either because of severity of condition or failure of self-help measures. You should not stop taking prescription medications for high blood pressure until you have consulted with your physician.

Ronald C. Brown, MD, FACP., is the Vice President of Medical Programs for Oxford Health Plans. He is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine and was trained in internal medicine at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. Dr. Brown is a board-certified internist.

Many people who have high blood pressure, but feel well, stop taking their medication. By doing so, they put themselves at risk for stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. There are alternative approaches that may help control hypertension.

Mind/Body Practice remedies
Any type of relaxation technique-meditation, yoga, guided imagery, and bodywork-can help relieve stress and indirectly lower blood pressure.

Diet and Nutrition remedies
Both conventional and alternative practitioners suggest that making dietary changes can help lower pressure. They recommend a diet high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish and low-fat dairy products, while low in sodium and total fat. A healthy diet can control blood pressure just as effectively as most medications.

Herbal remedies
Eating more foods that contain garlic and onion may help thin blood and/or lower blood pressure. Herbal medicines generally tend to have gentle, long-term effects. They are usually not sufficient to control moderate to severe hypertension.

Vitamin remedies
Magnesium, potassium, and calcium supplements have been shown to lower blood pressure. Taking fish oil supplements regularly may also help control high blood pressure. Consult your doctor before incorporating vitamins into any blood pressure-lowering regimen.

James Dillard, MD, DC, CAc, is the founding Medical Director for Oxford Health Plans' Complementary and Alternative Medicine program and is chairman of the Oxford Chiropractic Advisory Board. He is a board-certified medical doctor, a doctor of chiropractic, and a certified medical acupuncturist.

This column is offered for your interest and information. It is not intended as advice and should not replace your doctor's recommendation or treatment plan. Comments on this column can be e-mailed to or mailed to:

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