Recent research has shown that new and improved treatment for high blood pressure could soon be developed. This news comes after studies were released showing how nitric oxide regulation could be used to manage blood flow.
Medical professionals have previously focused on other, less effective pathways for treating high blood pressure, but findings by researchers at King’s College Hospital have established how nitric oxide is made by an enzyme influenced by brain activity. This explains the role that stress plays in abnormal blood pressure and is the first investigation of its kind. The scientists behind the study observed 17 men over a period of weeks as they took a drug which blocked the enzyme that produced nitric oxide. They found that the drug caused a surprisingly significant reduction in hypertension.
These results could make a massive difference to the way healthcare professionals view and treat hypertension, which currently affects around one in four adults in the UK.
What is High blood pressure?
Blood pressure is determined by two different numbers. The number at the top records systolic pressure- the force in your blood vessels as your heart pumps throughout your body. The lower number is diastolic pressure. This is the pressure in your blood vessels during the pause between heartbeats. Both of these recorded pressures are measured by millimetres of mercury- written down as mmHg. The ideal blood pressure level is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. Low blood pressure is anything below 90/60mmHg and you may be suffering from high blood pressure, or hypertension, if your readings are consistently above 140/90mmHg.
In the majority of cases, there is no single cause for high blood pressure. However, there are a few lifestyle factors which can contribute towards the condition. You are at a higher risk of experiencing hypertension if you do any of the following:
- Eat a diet high in salt
- Don’t eat enough fruit or vegetables
- Live a sedentary lifestyle
- Drink above the recommended amount of alcohol
- Are overweight
It is rare for high blood pressure to display noticeable signs and symptoms, although patients with extremely high readings may experience headaches. The only way to find out for sure if you are suffering from hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked.
It is important to note, however, that a single high reading is not a sure indicator of the condition. This is because many different factors can cause spikes and dips in your blood pressure throughout the day. For this reason, your GP or pharmacist will take a number of readings over a period of time to get a more accurate determination of your blood pressure levels.
The additional strain put on the heart and vessels by high blood pressure levels can, over time, increase your risk of potentially life-threatening conditions such as a heart attack, aortic aneurysm, heart failure or a stroke, so it is important to seek advice if you believe you may have irregular blood pressure.
What to do if you are Concerned about High Blood Pressure
In many cases, medication will not be necessary in the treatment of high blood pressure. The first steps you should take before paying a visit to your doctor are simple lifestyle changes such as exercising more regularly, eating a healthier diet, reducing the levels of salt in your diet and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.
To find out if your blood pressure is too high, you may be able to visit your pharmacist. An increasing number of local pharmacies are now offering blood pressure testing, so it is well worth giving them a call and finding out if they provide this service. Your pharmacist will also be able to give you help and advice regarding making the lifestyle changes listed above. If your pharmacist determines that you have hypertension, they may refer you to your GP to be prescribed medication.