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Healthy Living: Getting to grips with hypertension - Eva Hill Hamilton

Healthy Living: Getting to grips with hypertension - Eva Hill Hamilton

Don’t overlook headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness or nose bleeds as these are common symptoms of problems with blood pressure

The changeable weather, big raises and drops in temperature can be hard on anyone, but if you have hypertension, it might affect you even worse.

Your blood pressure measurement takes into account how much blood is passing through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood meets while the heart is pumping. Narrow arteries increase resistance, so the narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure will be. Hypertension typically develops over the course of several years.

The typical symptoms you want to look out for include headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, nose bleeds – or you may not notice any symptoms. It may go undetected for a long time, but high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels and organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys.

Primary or essential hypertension is the most common type, which develops over time, due to genetic predisposition combined with poor lifestyle and physical changes, such as poor diet, physical inactivity, stress, alcohol abuse and weight gain. Secondary hypertension is due to problems in the heart or in other organs, such as the kidneys, thyroid, adrenals – or due to hormonal tumours. Some medications – even the over-the-counter painkillers can raise blood pressure over time.

If you have excess weight or your diet and lifestyle is less than desirable, it is time to get your gear into action. Simple small changes can make a huge difference in most cases. No miracle pills, just good old fashioned sensible eating and exercising. However, I met an unusual case last year, a lady in her fifties, who was on three blood pressure medications by then. What was interesting was the fact she had an excellent lifestyle, ate a clean diet, was at her perfect weight, did moderate exercise five days a week and her routine blood results were excellent. Yet, the lowest she could get her blood pressure was 160s over 90s. Her internist was stumped on what to do next.

After carefully reviewing her case we decided to organise a human NCT test - a 24-hour urine test to check organic acids – the by-products of our cell metabolism, along with hormones and minerals, which may suggest where the problem might be. The test showed elevated aldosterone and vanillylmandelic acid, which is the end product of adrenalin and noradrenalin – adrenal stress hormones’ metabolism.

Hyperaldosteronism can be caused by a tumour (usually a noncancerous adenoma) in the adrenal gland which may cause high blood pressure. I discussed these results with her doctor and he decided to order diagnostic imaging of the adrenal glands, which detected a moderate sized adenoma and the patient was referred to an endocrinologist for a surgical removal.

A few months after the surgery her blood pressure is perfectly normal and she is completely off all blood pressure medications. This was a good example to encourage you to ask for further investigations when you have resistant blood pressure – don’t just take medications, find the root of the problem.

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