Types of Blood Pressure Medications

And How They Work to Lower Hypertension

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Blood pressure medication and monitor
Blood pressure medication and monitor

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it exhibits no symptoms. Typically people first learn they have it when their doctor tells them during a routine visit. That’s how I found out. I was amazed. I’m an avid runner and walker, my weight is acceptable, and I eat well. But as the doc told me, “You’re doing the right things, but if it’s in your genes, it’s in your genes.” Oh crap.

So. Meds. Nobody likes them. Get over it. Blood pressure meds might be the worst; the one good thing is that even if you don’t have conventional insurance or Medicare Part D, generics are quite affordable. Here are the ones you need to be acquainted with if you are diagnosed with hypertension.

  • Diuretics. Also known as “water pills,” these meds cause your body to produce more urine which in turn causes you to eliminate more salt from your body (and most importantly, your bloodstream). Even if you don’t add salt to your food, most of your sodium intake comes from eating out and packaged foods. Salt’s effect is to act on your kidneys to make your body hold on to more water. Extra stored water raises your blood pressure and puts a strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart, and brain. If you are prescribed a diuretic, stay close to a bathroom.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). These meds block the effects of a hormone, you guessed it, called ­angiotensin II. This hormone is a peptide hormone that causes vasoconstriction, and consequently, a rise in your blood pressure. It’s part of the renin-angiotensin system. This system regulates blood pressure. Angiotensin also stimulates the release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex to promote sodium retention by the kidneys. There’s that salt raising it’s ugly head again.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. ACE inhibitors are a type of meds used primarily for the treatment of high blood pressure and heart failure. The way they work is by causing relaxation of your blood vessels as well as a decrease in blood volume, which leads to lower blood pressure and decreased oxygen demand from the heart. The brand I take is Lisinopril, which luckily, is a generic so it is inexpensive, especially with medical insurance. The main side effects are a persistent dry cough and a feeling of lethargy.
  • Beta-blockers. This type helps in reducing the heart rate thereby decreasing your blood pressure. Your doctor might call them beta-adrenergic blocking agents. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. There are some beta-blockers that mainly affect your heart, while others affect both your heart and your blood vessels.
  • Calcium channel blockers. This type reduces the amount of calcium that enters your heart muscles thereby reducing the heart rate and controlling blood pressure.
  • Alpha-blockers: The muscles of your arteries and veins are relaxed with this type thus reducing the blood pressure.

General Considerations for Hypertension Medications

There are some things to know when you are prescribed hypertension meds. The first is that they all have side effects so you may have to work with your doctor to find the one that works best for your lifestyle. When I tried a calcium channel blocker it caused too much ankle swelling. When I switched to lisinopril I found that it affected my running, particularly any long run over 10 miles made me feel wonky and my vision to get weird… after I stopped. My solution? I now take it in the evening rather than in the morning. Despite the side effects, medication drastically lowers the chance of a stroke.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Know the Difference Between “Epidemic” and “Pandemic”

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Main differences between an epidemic and a pandemic
Main differences between an epidemic and a pandemic

The words “epidemic” and “pandemic” have been used interchangeably by many news outlets during the Corona Virus (CORVID-19) outbreak. The fact is that words matter and should be used more cautiously so that the population gets the correct updates. Since the primary difference between the two words is the geographical scale of the outbreak/illness, a confusion of perception is possible. You need accurate information since CORVID-19 is much more serious for those with pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure.

Epidemic

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) specifies an epidemic as occurring at the level of a region or community.
  • As a metaphor, an epidemic is “a rapid spread or increase in the occurrence of something,” according to dictionary.com.

Pandemic

  • As opposed to an epidemic, “a pandemic is prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world,” according to dictionary.com. As such, the consequences can be devastating to both populations and intertwined economies, as we are seeing with CORVID-19.
  • A pandemic is what an epidemic becomes once it reaches a far wider number of people, especially across continents or even the entire world (reference the image at the top of this article).

Related Definitions to Know

As you try to understand what local officials, the talking heads on TV, and the gaffe-master Joe Biden are telling you keep these other terms in mind.

  • Outbreak: a sudden breaking out or occurrence or eruption of illnesses. With respect to an infectious disease, an outbreak is specifically a sudden rise in cases, especially when it is only or so far affecting a relatively localized area so it is more applicable to an epidemic than a pandemic.
  • Epicenter: a focal point of activity. If you are told a country, city, or region is called the epicenter of a pandemic disease, that means more or an accelerating number of cases are being confirmed there than other places in the world.
  • Hotspot: roughly equivalent to an epicenter but on a more localized scale such as a particular nursing home. The good news is that medical insurance companies can be more responsive in these cases.
  • Bubonic plague: ravaging Europe in 1720 and 1920, the bubonic plague was caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The bacterium is found in fleas and wild rodents such as rats, squirrels, chipmunks or prairie dogs. Hopefully this one is behind us with effective methods of flea control.

Politics in Pandemic Names

  • The China virus: The WHO has issued guidelines for labeling diseases and called on scientists, journalists, and elected officials to follow the rules “to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies, and people.” Since the WHO is affiliated with the UN it is not surprising that their take is politically correct. That hasn’t stopped President Trump from calling it the China virus. Because that’s what it is. Let reality prevail over hurt feelings.
  • The Spanish Flu: This pandemic, one of the worst ever, most certainly did not start in Spain. They got the name because of wartime censorship. Spain was not involved in WW1 and so their press reported on the flu whereas the combatant countries did not in order to boost morale.
  • Hong Kong flu: A pandemic of influenza A (H3N2) in 1968-69. This virus was first detected in Hong Kong in early 1968 and spread to the United States later that year.

Do you feel sick? There is some evidence that the same way you manage cold and flu symptoms may help with the Corona Virus. While this is not a proven cure if you suspect COVID-19, it can lessen the pain. Meanwhile, see your doctor.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

How Blood Pressure Medication Affects Your Running

Middle-of-the-pack marathon runners
Middle-of-the-pack marathon runners
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It’s a popular misconception that being a regular runner can get high blood pressure down into the normal range. Certainly it can help by keeping you at a favorable weight, but most experts agree that exercise alone can only drop the blood pressure 10 or so mm Hg in most people. If you are genetically programmed for high blood pressure, this alone may not be enough to do the trick.

I didn’t realize this. When my doctor told me I had hypertension I said, “But doc, that can’t be; I run almost every day and at least one marathon a year.”

He said, “You have been misinformed, my friend. That kind of exercise can help but it’s not a panacea. If it is in your genes, it’s in your genes. Wer’e going to try medication.

Lisinopril is My Hypertension Drug

Lisinopril tablet, 40 Mg
Lisinopril tablet, 40 Mg

There are many high blood pressure drugs on the market. Many of these are now generic which is a good thing because once you are on them, you are likely on them for the long haul and generic-ness reduces the cost. Since it is generic, you might have also heard the brand names Zestril, Prinivil, and Qbrelis. Same stuff, different Big Pharma company.

Different meds may work differently. This one is classified as an ACE inhibitor. It does its deed by reducing the production of angiotensin II, which relaxes arterial muscles and enlarging arteries. When your blood pressure lowers, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood.

 The arteries supplying your heart with blood also enlarge while being treated with ACE inhibitors. This increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart which further improves the ability of your heart to pump blood.

How Lisinopril Affects My Running

Beginning this treatment was a tough pill to swallow (excuse the pun). One of the side effects is a persistent cough which I’ve gotten used to but during races or on the trails I get some odd looks like, are you contagious with something?

It also makes me lethargic all day which translates to a slower pace. Well, that excuse certainly takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Also, larger, more flexible arteries make for more more blood flow making for a lower heart rate. This is fine for a run of three miles or less but over that it’s not good — once I stop.

I found out just how bad this could be after doing a 10K in the Texas Bridge Series. It was a hot day and I felt fine while running. But a couple of minutes after the (thank God) finish line I was standing in line for food and something cold to slug down.

I began to feel really woozy. Not sick, not nauseous, just light-headed. My vision began to go in and out. It was just the amount and rate of blood still pumping while my muscles had stopped crying out for all that oxygen-toting flow. I see it as meds being an artificial way to regulate the body they just don’t allow adjustment as quickly as “normal” feedback. But I held my place in line and after sitting on the grass and chowing down for about 15 minutes I was OK again. Lesson learned? I now take my meds after a workout, not before. And immediately following a run I walk for up to a mile instead of just standing still as part of my running recovery routine.

Other Blood Pressure Meds Side Effects

Besides the cough and feeling lethargic, I also get these odd but unimportant fleeting back pain. After even a short run my shoulders feel tired and a bit sore. Some people develop headaches, insomnia, anxiety,  and nasal congestion. I have been spared those but chalk it up to still running, recovering, and stretching. Almost every freakin’ day.

So am I happy with how blood pressure medication affects my running? No, not at all. But as my doctor told me, “Young man, it beats the hell out of having a stroke or a cardiac event.” My BP yesterday was 91/67. Maybe too low.


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Liver Detox – Fact or Fiction?


Phase 1 and 2 liver detoxification
Phase 1 and 2 liver detoxification

Liver detoxification, or liver cleanse as it is sometimes called, has become a huge industry worth billions of dollars each year. And why not? When something appeals to both the health-focused folks and hipsters, you have a winning combination. But how much of the hype is fact and how much is fiction?

Liver Detox Myths

The liver is the body’s primary filtration system and it’s job is to convert toxins into waste products as well as cleansing the blood and metabolizing nutrients and medications to make available to the body some of its most important proteins.

To get a good idea about which claims have a real basis and which are anecdotal, it pays dividends to put aside the infomercials and spam emails and look at the research.

John Hopkins Medicine has identified several myths that have been widely circulated.

  • Liver cleanses are a cure-all for daily liver health and overindulgence. Not true. They explain, “these products are not regulated by the FDA, and thus are not uniform and have not been adequately tested in clinical trials.”
  • Cleanses are effective for weight loss. Again, no clinical evidence has upheld this claim and logically, it is difficult to see any connection. For real weight loss, look to eating properly and taking up an aerobic exercise program such as running.
  • Liver detox will prevent liver disease. No, but there are proven things you can do to this end. These include avoiding drug use and unprotected sex, abstaining from alcohol in excess, and avoiding weight gain. Better still, make it a priority lo lose weight.
  • Detoxification can repair existing liver damage. This in itself is not a cure-all however there are several things that will help. Lose weight. Eat healthy. Stop or minimize alcohol consumption.
  • Obesity does not increase your risk of liver disease. False! Part of the liver’s function is to eliminate toxins but being overloaded with fat can can cause inflammation, which may lead to the development of fibrosis and cirrhosis.

Alternatives to Commercial Liver Detox Concoctions

Many commercial cleanses are nothing but expensive snake oil or combined supplements. They are not regulated by the FDA and the ingredients are not typically vetted by an independent laboratory.

There are more frugal approaches that will aid liver function. For example, vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene are powerful antioxidants. B-vitamins assist in alcohol metabolism.  There is some evidence that milk thistle, dandelion root, and schizandra help protect liver cells while ridding the body of poisons.

So is a commercial liver detox product worth the money? Each person has to become informed make that decision.


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