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Mind & Body Health
Managing High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure at which blood is pumped around our body by the heart. Blood pressure is so vitally important to your health that you have had it read by doctors or nurses with a blood pressure cuff throughout your life. A blood pressure reading can be considered normal, it can be low, or it can be high. High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is by far the most serious of these possible blood pressure readings.

High blood pressure has no direct physical symptoms; you cannot usually feel it in your body. Yet high blood pressure is considered a very serious medical problem. It is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and medical crises such as heart attacks and strokes. It may even contribute to hardening of the arteries.

Although effective treatment is available for high blood pressure, the majority of cases remain dangerously untreated. It is estimated that 20% of Americans have some form of high blood pressure. It is further estimate that only half of these cases have been recognized, and less than half of those are treated. Because of this problem of untreated blood pressure, and its lack of tell-tale symptoms, high blood pressure has been called the "silent epidemic".

Most cases of high blood pressure are called "essential hypertension," meaning there's no obvious medical cause for the hypertension. Emotional factors are known to play a role in most cases of essential hypertension. Blood pressure may rise dramatically during very stressful situations, but for it to remain high the stressful events must be continuing and unrelenting. Often a person with hypertension will be living or working in a situation where he is frequently very tense or angry, but does not have the option of leaving the situation or expressing his true feelings. After blood pressure remains high for some time it is thought that special receptors in the body that monitor blood pressure become adjusted to the high levels; the body may then lose its ability to lower the blood pressure to a safer level. Fortunately, it appears that the body can return to maintaining a lower blood pressure with proper treatment.

The most effective overall treatment for high blood pressure involves working with a counselor on the emotional and stressful issues in your life; learning methods of stress management and biofeedback; and working with a physician to monitor blood pressure levels and oversee medication. Blood pressure medication can be a life-saving part of treatment for high blood pressure, but some may have unpleasant side effects, including tiredness and sexual difficulties. If blood pressure can be lowered under medical supervision with the assistance of counseling methods, then the person might require less medication. However, it is important to state that blood pressure must be controlled with medication until an alternative is found to lessen the need for the medication. Your family doctor would likely welcome the use of counseling to assist his or her efforts to help you control your blood pressure.

Dr. Kathy Marshack can help you. She is accepting new clients and has two office locations for your convenience. If you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area (or can drive to these locations) please call to set up your first appointment. See Therapy FAQs for more information. Please give us a call at (360) 256-0448 or (503) 222-6678 or email us at info@kmarshack.com.