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HYPERTENSION (High Blood Pressure): Nearly 1 in 4 (50 million) Americans suffer from hypertension, a persistent elevation in blood pressure above the normal range (120/80). High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and blindness. Causes may include constricted arteries, a heart that is pumping too hard, or tired kidneys that are retaining fluid. About half of all hyperactives take medication, which when started are usually taken two or three times daily for life.

CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT: There is controversy as to whether hypertension drugs are helpful for more than the 20% of acute sufferers. Diuretics work by causing the kidneys to increase the amount of water excreted, decreasing blood volume and pressure. They can increase blood sugar, uric-acid, and serum cholesterol levels, increasing risk of diabetes, gout and heart disease. Beta-blockers can cause drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, nausea, weakness, diarrhea, numbness and coldness in fingers and toes, dry mouth and skin, impotence, insomnia, hallucinations, nightmares, headaches, bronchial asthma, or difficult breathing, joint pains, confusion, depression, reduced alertness, and constipation. These side effects are a direct result of the drug's mode of action: beta-blockers slow the heart's pump. The brain tells the heart to beat faster and pump harder for a reason. In many people it is because the arteries have become corroded with deposits of calcium and fat. These narrow the arterial openings, requiring a greater pressure to push enough blood through to keep the body running at normal levels. Any artificial reduction in this pressure will make one feel tired. They can weaken heartbeat to cause heart failure. They can trigger bronchial asthma by suppressing epinephrine, the natural chemical that opens the bronchi. WARNING: serious problems can occur if beta-blockers are withdrawn suddenly. Beta-blockers may make more sense for younger hypertensives whose condition is likely to be caused by stress, but not so ideal for the elderly; whose conditions are more likely caused by calcified arteries.

Calcium channel blockers, or calcium antagonists work by interfering with the normal flow of calcium to the muscles and nerves, relaxing the arteries and reducing their resistance to blood flow. Although they are generally well tolerated, they can cause dizziness or lightheadedness. Alpha blockers block nerve receptors in the autonomic nervous system and can cause a drop in blood pressure on standing suddenly. Antigiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) cause blood vessels to dilate by blocking the formation of a natural chemical called angiotensin II. Their most common side effect is a dry cough.
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