Hypertension, like our temperature, is a vital sign telling us something about our body. It is telling us that something is amiss. Yet, paradoxically, we have come to view the vital sign as an illness that has to be treated by medication. We do not view a fever in the same way; we treat the cause of the fever. We need to change our mindset about high blood pressure.
We need to discard the notion that hypertension is an illness or disease that can be cured by taking medication. Even if the medicine does lower our high blood pressure, it is treating the symptom not the cause of our condition. It is the underlying cause that must be treated otherwise it will persist and that could be critical to our health.
Unlike a fever where the cause can be quickly identified and suitable treatment prescribed, there are many potential causes of hypertension. Your doctor does not have the time to test for each possible cause until he or she finds the real reason for your condition. It is easier and quicker for them to prescribe medication to reduce your high blood pressure and to give general advice about diet, taking more exercise and losing weight.
“The doctor has given me a pill, so I must be ill” is the wrong way to view your condition. Instead, we should be working with our physician to identify the real cause of our condition and to be safely weaned of the medication we have been taking.
The starting point is our lifestyle. We need to follow the DASH diet for a couple of weeks at least and to take regular exercise. This will help us lose weight at a steady and safe rate. During this time we should be monitoring and recording our own blood pressure every day. We should also keep a log of our diet, exercise and weight. If our high blood pressure is on a downwards tend during this time, we know that the underlying cause of our problem was most likely caused my deficiencies in our diet which we have corrected. With this information, we can help our doctor plan the best course of treatment for us.
If, despite improving our diet and becoming more active, our condition shows no sign of improvement, we have the evidence to show our physician. He or she can then test for other possible causes of our hypertension, such as heart disease, renal failure, chronic stress or severe atherosclerosis. This will take time as each possible cause will have to be tested. During this period, it is important to maintain our lifestyle improvements as these will have a positive benefit on our overall health.
Having hypertension is like being in a box. There are more than 300 ways of getting into the box, but we can only get out the way we got in. It is our responsibility to help our doctor find how we got into the box and to assist him or her in planning the exit that naturally returns our high blood pressure to normal levels.
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