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Hypertension is considered one of the most common chronic diseases associated with an increase in blood pressure that occurs in adulthood. Matthew Weir (2005) affirms that “Approximately 65 million Americans have hypertension, which is more than 50% of the people over age 60” (p. 1). Doctors call hypertension the epidemic of the XXI century. It is impossible to cure the disease completely. However, a person can control it and keep it within acceptable values. Therefore, it is necessary to pay increased attention to this disease. Timely detection of hypertension can help avoid many serious health problems in the future. In addition to the drugs, the right diet is the most important component of successful treatment of high blood pressure. The purpose of the paper is to study causes and symptoms of hypertension as well as the role of the diet in the treatment of the disease.
Causes of Hypertension
Despite the fact that over the past few decades there has been a breakthrough in the treatment of hypertension in medicine, it remains one of the most insidious and dangerous diseases. It is associated with the fact that the initial stage of the disease is practically asymptomatic. Many patients neglect the prevention and medical treatment of hypertension. In most cases, the cause of high blood pressure cannot be established. In this case, it is primary hypertension. This form of the disease is usually recorded in the elderly. In 8-10% of cases, hypertension develops as a symptom of another disease or as a side effect of taking certain medications (Weir, 2005). In such cases, it is secondary hypertension. Such facts as kidney disease, endocrine pathologies, intake of steroids, cortisone, and some fever-reducing drugs lead to hypertension. There are many risk factors that can contribute to a persistent increase of the pressure in the bloodstream. Weir (2005) states that “The most important causal factors for development of hypertension include obesity, excessive dietary salt consumption, reduced physical activity, excess alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, and inadequate intake of fruits, vegetables and potassium” (p. 4).
Symptoms of Hypertension
The main symptoms are headache, dizziness, blurred vision, palpitations, heart pains, and shortness of breath as well as cold extremities and intermittent claudication. However, hypertension often does not have any symptoms. In most cases, a slight increase in blood pressure does not give any symptoms and it is a random finding during a routine health check or medical examination of other diseases. Hypertension can also cause various complications. Primarily, it affects the heart. Due to the increased load of blood in the heart, its hypertrophy can occur. There are also changes in the walls of blood vessels and circulatory disorders of the internal organs. Henceforth, symptoms of hypertensive disease increase. Hypertension is manifested in the deterioration of the patient's condition and infringement of work of various organs. There can be such complications as kidney failure. Hypertension also affects blood vessels of the retina, which causes problems with eyesight (Weir, 2005).
Diagnosis of Hypertension
Diagnosis of the disease in addition to examination by a doctor and anamnesis includes a number of laboratory and instrumental investigations. Minimum of laboratory and instrumental investigations for the diagnosis of the disease include urinalysis, clinical blood test, detailed biochemical analysis of blood with the obligatory definition of the lipid spectrum, electrocardiogram, ultrasound of the heart and other internal organs, and consultation of an ophthalmologist for the assessment of retinal vessels. If a doctor suspects secondary hypertension, he/she may prescribe a number of additional studies of organs and systems, the pathology of which could lead to the increase in blood pressure. The doctor chooses the scheme of examination for each patient individually (Weir, 2005).
Treatment of Hypertension
At first, it is necessary to establish an accurate diagnosis. For this, additional examinations are conducted. A doctor assigns antihypertensive therapy. It helps identify possible complications. The patient is hospitalized and prescribed the appropriate treatment. To date, there are such groups of medications as beta-blockers, diuretics, alpha-blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium antagonists, antihypertensives, and a combination of drugs of different groups (Weir, 2005). In case of hypertension, it is necessary to follow all the doctor appointments and take medications on time.
The appropriate diet in hypertension is the most important component of successful treatment of high blood pressure. Cardiologists and therapists notice that many of the patients take control over their blood pressure with only proper diet and physical exercises. The diet for people suffering from hypertension prohibits any fat meat, black tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, spicy or salty products. These dietary restrictions help reduce fat intake, reduce the cholesterol level in the blood, and remove excess fluid from the body. Nutritionists recommend eating more fish. While on the diet, it is recommended to reduce the consumption of animal fats, which does not apply to sea fish. It contains the essential fatty acids Omega-3 and iodine, which are good for the heart. Proper nutrition for those suffering from hypertension helps correct metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. It stimulates the action of drugs and, thus, protects the patient from their side effects. The diet should be balanced saturating the body with all the essential nutrients: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
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The American Heart Association recommends the dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH) (Moore et al., 2005). This diet involves a decrease of meat and animal fats in a patient’s diet. Instead, it is recommended to eat more vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, fish, and unsaturated fats – vegetable oils. It is necessary to limit the consumption of salt and sweets. A person should eat 4-5 meals a day. The last meal should be no later than two hours before bedtime, and it must be less caloric. This diet suggests that a person should eat more often but not overeat. Nutritionists have developed the DASH diet on the basis of the results of their long-term observations for vegetarians. It was found that vegetarians usually have lower blood pressure than meat-eaters.