High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a dangerous and potentially life threatening medical condition. There are a number of prescription medications that can be used to lower blood pressure. However, a number of these medications have serious side-effects.
Prescription antihypertensive drugs:
Drugs that lower high blood pressure are called antihypertensive drugs. There are a number of different classes of these medications. They include thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, ARB’s (angiotensin II receptor antagonists). Although all of these medications lower blood pressure, they do so through different mechanisms, and thus have different overall effects on the body, different side-effect profiles. They also differ in cost.
In general, a doctor or medical professional will know best which medicine is the best choice for each person. However, in our society, many doctors are over-eager to prescribe medication, so it is best to ask your doctor if the medication is absolutely necessary before taking it, and to take other approaches to treat your condition first if this would be a better choice.
When is medication appropriate?
Because the medications used to treat hypertension have potentially dangerous side-effects, they should only be used as a last-resort. In some cases, they can save lives. However, these powerful prescription drugs should only be used when other, safer avenues for lowering blood pressure have been exhausted.
Natural treatments for high blood pressure:
In most cases, hypertension is easily curbed by simple changes in diet and lifestyle. A few key changes in diet, such as reducing sodium (salt) intake, making sure to get adequate potassium, and limiting one’s intake of refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and caffeine, can go a long way to lowering blood pressure. Getting regular exercise is also of key importance. Reducing or eliminating stress can also have a similar effect. Also, make sure to avoid foods and herbs that are known to worsen hypertension, such as licorice.
In many people with only mildly high blood pressure, called prehypertension, a single measure is often sufficient to bring their blood pressure back to normal, healthy levels. These measures can also be combined for a stronger approach, tackling the hypertension from multiple angles. Below we will discuss a potentially useful herbal remedy. In a few rare cases, however, prescription medication may be necessary.
Whether you should take medication to lower blood pressure depends on age:
A 2009 review published in the Cochrane Database (Issue 12, 2010) by V.M. Musini et. al, “Pharmacotherapy for hypertension in the elderly”, concluded that treating elderly patients over 80 years old with prescription medication provided no benefit in terms of decreased mortality rates. This study observed a significant number of withdrawals due to adverse effects from the medication, emphasizing that these medications can have substantial unpleasant and/or dangerous effects. Based on this review, people over 80 should not take prescription medication for hypertension.
Herbal treatments for high blood pressure:
Traditional medicine recommends a number of different herbal medications for a variety of conditions, including high blood pressure. In some cases, herbal medications have very little scientific evidence behind them. However, there is one herbal medication for high blood pressure that has solid scientific evidence supporting its use and effectiveness. This is hibiscus tea.
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Hibiscus tea is a caffeine-free herbal tea made from the sepals of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) flower. Hibiscus tea is thought to act similarly to the ACE Inhibitors, although it is much safer than these drugs. Hibiscus has been consumed as a beverage for hundreds of years, is a common ingredient in herbal teas, and is widely recognized as safe for most people.
Hibiscus has been shown in clinical trials to be effective for lowering blood pressure, and it has even been compared with some prescription medications, with promising results. It also shows some evidence of other health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol. Hibiscus tea is not necessarily the best choice for everyone. It is very acidic, which can cause problems for people with acid reflux, and which can make it difficult for some people to drink, although others love the tangy flavor.
Medication to lower blood pressure is a last-resort, and should only be used after all other avenues for treating hyperension have been exhausted, including diet modification, exercise, and stress reduction. There is evidence that people over 80 should not take medication for hypertension. Hibiscus tea is a useful and relatively safe herbal remedy for hypertension.