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Take the pressure off

Make these changes to lower your blood pressure, improve your health

What does your blood pressure have in common with a garden hose?

Quite a lot.

Increasing the pressure in a garden hose (whether by opening your faucet to full force or by plugging the end of the hose opening) can cause it to become rigid or even burst.

Blood in the arteries functions in much the same way. Consistently high blood pressure— also called hypertension—damages the tissues of the artery walls. Hypertension can lead to serious medical problems and even death.

Although it’s normal to experience minor fluctuations throughout the day, one in three Americans experiences high levels of blood pressure (exceeding 140/90) even without activity or stress. That can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, and even death. This increased risk is compounded in people with diabetes, high cholesterol, or smokers.

Because it has no direct symptoms, hypertension is known as the “silent killer.” The best first step is to know your blood pressure readings and work with your doctor to control high blood pressure if necessary.

Generally, patients with hypertension can help control their high blood pressure by adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as:
• Eating a balanced low-salt diet
• Losing weight
• Exercising more
• Stopping smoking
• Reducing stress

When lifestyle changes aren’t adequate, there are numerous drug therapies that can be used separately or in combination to reduce hypertension. Occasionally, however, some people have what’s called “resistant hypertension” that, despite lifestyle changes and medications, cannot be brought under control.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are exploring a new approach to treating hypertension by moderating the nervous system signals that contribute to high blood pressure. One worldwide study is exploring the effect of renal denervation, a minimally invasive procedure that may potentially decrease the sensitivity of nerves lining the walls of the kidney arteries, thereby reducing the signals that cause hypertension.

If you’ve exhausted all other options, you can talk with your doctor about clinical trials such as this one that may contribute to better control of your hypertension. For more information about this study, call UK HealthCare’s Heather Shinall at (859) 323-5259 or email her at

Dr. Khaled Ziada is a professor of interventional cardiology at the University of Kentucky.

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