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"What causes my high blood pressure?"
I have a family history of high blood pressure, and only two out of eight siblings are not taking medication for the condition. I talked with my two siblings who are not taking medication for their high blood pressure, and they said that I should watch my weight, and I can actually improve my blood pressure by simply shedding a few pounds. My brother-in-law told me that I if I lose about 10 pounds, my blood pressure will naturally drop several points and fall within the normal range. Because I am concerned about the possibility of a heart attack in the future, I was wondering whether there is a scientifically proven relationship between diet, exercise and high blood pressure.
In the vast majority of cases of high blood pressure, no exact cause can be found. Still, it is important to discuss this concern with your primary care physician. We call these cases of high blood pressure without a known cause "essential hypertension." Essential hypertension does run in families, and might be what your siblings have, though there is no way for me to be sure. When someone comes to me with high blood pressure, I usually look at their personal medical history, perform a detailed physical exam, and get basic blood work. If nothing is out of the ordinary, then I assume they have essential hypertension. The first thing that can be done is to adjust certain lifestyle issues that might bring blood pressure back into check. There is data to suggest that reducing salt in one's diet, increasing aerobic exercise, and losing weight can all bring down blood pressure a few points. If your blood pressure isn't all that elevated to begin with, making those lifestyle changes might be all that is needed to avoid needing medications. The best type of physician for you to see about this problem is your primary care physician. At each annual visit, you should have your blood pressure measured to make sure that it is within normal limits. Good luck.
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