Drug - Nutrient Interactions: Volume 1

June 17, 2004

Today's e-mail newsletter discusses the interaction between different classes of cardiovascular drugs and nutrients. In today's issue we discuss medication for hypertension (high blood pressure). The next issue will discuss medication for elevated cholesterol, other blood fats such as lipoprotein (a), and other important cardiovascular risk factors such as C-reactive protein.

Choosing a Medication for High Blood Pressure

Choosing a medication, or combination of medications for high blood pressure depends on many factors. Recently it has been discovered that the response from person to person to a particular drug or drug combination for treating high blood pressure can vary remarkably and that a patient's drug protocol must be customized according to their response. Drug side effects and their impact on an individual are another important consideration. If the individual has suffered a stroke or heart attack, if they have asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or other health conditions, and consideration of their age all strongly influence the choice of medication. These and other factors such as cost and patient compliance are considered for the best protocol.

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning High Blood Pressure

What is high blood pressure?

When your heart pumps blood throughout your body, the flow of blood puts pressure on blood vessel walls. This is your blood pressure reading. If the reading goes above a certain level it is referred to as high blood pressure or hypertension. A consistent reading exceeding 140/90 is considered high, a reading of 120/80 is considered average for adults.

Note - this reading measures how high your pressure can push up a column of mercury (the actual measure is in millimeters of mercury or mmHg).

What do the top and bottom figures in my blood pressure reading refer to?

The top figure (measured at 120 for normal) refers to the pressure exerted when the heart pumps out oxygenated blood. It is referred to as systolic pressure. The bottom figure (diastolic pressure) refers to the pressure in between heartbeats. The bottom figure is crucial because the heart has a tiny rest in between beats, if it is elevated the heart is under a lot of stress.

Frequently in older individuals the top figure becomes elevated. This is called isolated systolic hypertension; a typical reading in this case may be 150/80.

Why is high blood pressure dangerous?

High blood pressure is called the "silent killer". This is because high blood pressure often exists without symptoms. Because of this it is important to go for your annual physical. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and puts a lot of stress directly on the heart muscle. Over time if not controlled, high blood pressure not only affects the heart and blood vessels, but also can lead to damage throughout the body.

Why is high blood pressure dangerous?

If your blood pressure is chronically elevated and is not treated it increases the risk of a number of conditions:

What are some of the risk factors that increase my chances of developing high blood pressure?

Narrowing of the blood vessels is a contributing factor to hypertension, and anything that increases damage to the blood vessel walls eventually can cause cardiovascular disease resulting in hypertension. These conditions include:

The following are sometimes controllable risk factors for developing high blood pressure: