A closer look at resistant hypertension for American Heart Month

Did you know that February is American Heart Month? This month is dedicated to raising awareness for and providing education on heart health, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

For adults in the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death. This is true across all racial and ethnic groups throughout the country and results in over 800,000 heart attacks annually.

The world’s leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease is hypertension. For many people, hypertension can be managed with lifestyle changes and/or medication, but some individuals will experience high blood pressure even in spite of aggressive medical treatment. This is referred to as resistant hypertension, which we will examine further below.

What is resistant hypertension?

Hypertension is defined by the average blood pressure (the force of blood pushing against the arterial walls) reading 130/80 mmHg or higher during a normal day. This can cause progressive damage to the artery walls and forces the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body.

Resistant hypertension impacts 20% of hypertension patients and occurs when high blood pressure does not respond well to aggressive medical treatment. Hypertension is considered resistant when all of the following criteria are met:

  • An individual takes three or more blood pressure medications at their maximum doses
  • One of these medicines is a diuretic
  • Blood pressure remains above the goal reading

Just as with hypertension, it is possible to have resistant hypertension without experiencing any symptoms — therefore, the best way to screen for this is by having your blood pressure checked by a healthcare provider. 

What are the causes of resistant hypertension?

There are many lifestyle factors that can contribute to hypertension and resistant hypertension, including a lack of physical activity, high sodium intake, smoking, and frequent use of over-the-counter painkiller medications. In addition to these lifestyle factors, resistant hypertension is frequently found in patients that have underlying medical causes responsible for raising their blood pressure, including chronic kidney disease, sleep apnea, and hormone imbalances.

What are the treatment options for resistant hypertension?

How a doctor will treat resistant hypertension will be based on each individual’s medical conditions and high blood pressure medication history. Typically, resistant hypertension treatment will involve addressing any underlying causes of high blood pressure, making necessary lifestyle changes, and adjusting medications and dosage levels to find what is optimal.

More research is needed to determine why many individuals develop resistant hypertension and what effective treatments for this condition look like — and advancements like these are only available when people participate in medical research. If you would like to find a clinical trial for resistant hypertension, use the button below to get started.