High Blood Pressure Definition Diet Smoking Cessation Herbal Supplements Exercise Yoga/Tai Chi/Qi gong Mind/Body Spirituality Pet Therapy Naturopathy Homeopathy Ayurveda DEFINITION Hypertension:  a silent killer worth treating.   Over 60 million Americans have abnormally high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.  The inci- dence increases with age and is more common in men and African Americans than in premenopausal women and whites.  By definition, high blood pressure is diag- nosed when several record- ings- preferably not all taken in a provider's office - demonstrate a systolic (top- number) reading of 140 or greater and/or a diastolic (bottom number) reading of 90 or greater.  However, even a diastolic blood pres- sure of 85 to 89 is consid- ered high normal and deserves at least careful observation.   It is important to be vigilant about hypertension for the following reasons:   • Left untreated, hyperten- sion can lead to stroke, kid- ney failure, heart failure and coronary heart dis- ease. • Because few people have symptoms of hypertension early in its course, it has become known as the "silent killer."   • Hypertension remains the leading cause of stroke; in fact, stroke is sometimes the first symptom of the disease.   • For greater than 90% of individuals with hypertension, no definite cause can be identified, and therefore it is categorized as "essential hypertension."  In rare cases hypertension may be due to an adrenal condition called Cushing's disease, an adre- nal tumor, renal (kidney) artery stenosis or kidney dis- ease. Fortunately, treatment for hypertension has been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of all complications, particularly stroke:   • Many traditional medica- tions such as diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin con- verting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin recep- tor blockers (ARB) and alpha blockers have been demon- strated to effectively lower blood pressure.  However, these medications are avail- able by prescription only and all have side effects, which must be closely monitored.   • In addition to these medica- tions, a proper diet and exer- cise are essential to the treatment of hypertension and may be effective alone in treating mild elevations in blood pressure.   • Several other complemen- tary techniques may help reduce blood pressure and
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