Blood Pressure: Lower Yours

7/14/2008 ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. One in four Americans is living with a silent disease. Frank Renella is one of them. He's had high blood pressure, or hypertension, for more than 40 years. Every day, he records his readings. "I write them in the morning, and I write them in the evening," Renella says.

But like many, Renella didn't have many signs that his blood pressure was high. "I saw no symptoms to make me alarm me," Renella recalls. "Let me put it that way." Symptoms may include dizziness, headaches or nose bleeds, but many patients don't have any warning.

"Hypertension is a silent epidemic that has been with us for the past five decades now," Giovanni Baula, M.D., an internist at Suncoast Medical Clinic in St. Petersburg, Fla., told Ivanhoe.

Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80. Hypertension is higher than 140 over 90. Anywhere in between is pre-hypertension. You can lower your blood pressure by losing weight, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, lowering salt intake and reducing stress. Medications can also help, but they're not always easy to take. "The challenge with older medication is the side effects," Dr. Baula says.

Now, there's a new option -- Tekturna (aliskiren). It's the first high blood pressure medication approved by the FDA in ten years. "This drug is almost comparable to placebo," Dr. Baula says. "Almost like zero side effects."

Tekturna works by stopping the kidneys from producing an enzyme called renin. It starts the chemical steps to cause high blood pressure.

"Since I've been taking Tekturna, everything stabilized," Renella says. "My breathing stabilized. My blood pressure stabilized." While it's good to have new drug options, doctors say blood pressure is something most of us can control with a healthy lifestyle.

Hypertension can lead to a heart attack or stroke. More recently, doctors are also seeing it lead to kidney disease and heart failure. The only way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is to get yours checked. Doctors say you should have your blood pressure checked twice a year.

Kelli Drayton, Executive Assistant
Suncoast Medical Clinic
St. Petersburg, FL
(727) 824-7148

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