Handling Hypertension

Reduce your blod pressure and avoid hypertension

| January/February 2004

  • Artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus) helps move bile and reduce cholesterol.
    Christopher Hobbs
  • Artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus) helps move bile and reduce cholesterol.

Karen came to see me because her doctor said her blood pressure was too high and gave her the diagnosis of pre-hypertension. “I hope the white coat doesn’t increase your blood pressure too much, especially when you think about the acupuncture needles,” I joked. Fortunately, Karen had a sense of humor.

“I never could have imagined my doctor would tell me I have high blood pressure,” Karen said. “I thought only men had trouble with that. And what’s ‘pre-hypertension’ about? He wanted to start me on medication.”

New guidelines have lowered the bar for defining hypertension, and experts have added a new category, pre-hypertension, defined as follows:

• Normal blood pressure:
less than 120/80 mm Hg
• Pre-hypertension:
120 to 139/80 to 89
• Stage 1 hypertension:
140 to 159/90 to 99
• Stage 2 hypertension: 160/100

Believe it or not, I told Karen, about 24 percent of men and 23 percent of women in the United States have hypertension (about one-fourth of all adults).

Saying that people with mildly elevated blood pressure have pre-hypertension is controversial. Some researchers and doctors believe the diagnosis will unnecessarily worry people who aren’t in any real trouble. Others say we need to alert people when their blood pressure starts trending upward and control it with medication. Hypertension can be a major risk factor for strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease.

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