Medication and lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure.

By Garrett Heggem

Medication and lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure

A range of medication is available for high blood pressure. Different blood pressure medications work in different ways, so it is not unusual for more than one type to be prescribed. The dose may alter according to your needs.

Medications that can lower blood pressure include:

  • ACE inhibitors
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Beta blockers
  • Low-dose diuretics (fluid tablets)
  • Alpha blockers.

Healthy lifestyle choices are important to improve your overall health and lower your risk of high blood pressure. They can also reduce the amount of medication you need or make your medication work better. Healthy lifestyle choices include not smoking, eating a healthy diet, staying fit, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding certain medications and avoiding stress.

Symptoms of kidney disease

Kidney disease is called a ‘silent disease’ as there are often few or no symptoms. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • A change in the frequency and quantity of urine passed, especially at night (usually an increase at first)
  • Blood in the urine (haematuria)
  • Foaming urine
  • Puffiness around the eyes and ankles (oedema)
  • Pain in the back (under the lower ribs, where the kidneys are located)
  • Pain or burning when passing urine.

When the kidneys begin to fail, there is a build-up of waste products and extra fluid in the blood as well as other problems, gradually leading to:

  • Tiredness, inability to concentrate
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath.

Treatment for kidney disease

If detected early enough, the progress of kidney disease can be slowed and sometimes even prevented. In the early stages, changes to diet and medication can help to increase the life of your kidneys.

If kidney function is reduced to less than 10 per cent of normal, the loss of function must be replaced by dialysis or a kidney transplant. Dialysis is a treatment for kidney failure that removes waste products and extra water from the blood by filtering it through a special membrane (fine filter).

Diagnosis of kidney disease

Early detection of kidney disease can be life saving. Medication and changes to lifestyle, along with an early referral to a kidney specialist (nephrologist), can prevent or delay kidney failure.

If you are ‘at higher risk’ of chronic kidney disease, talk to your doctor about having a regular kidney health check. This includes:

  • Blood pressure test
  • Blood test for kidney function
  • Urine test for albumin in the urine (albuminuria).

If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you should have the kidney health check every year,

Lifestyle changes can keep your kidneys healthy

Making healthy lifestyle choices can help to keep your kidneys functioning well such as:

  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables including legumes (peas or beans) and grain-based food like bread, pasta, noodles and rice.
  • Eat lean meat like chicken and fish each week.
  • Eat only small amounts of salty or fatty food.
  • Drink plenty of water instead of other drinks. Minimise consumption of sugary soft drinks.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay fit. Do at least 30 minutes of physical activity that increases your heart rate on five or more days of the week, including walking, lawn mowing, bike riding, swimming or gentle aerobics.
  • If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, quit! Call the Quit line on 13 7848 or ask your doctor for assistance with quitting.
  • Limit your alcohol to two small drinks per day if you are male or one small drink per day if you are female.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Do things that help you relax and reduce your stress levels.