For Dina*, high blood pressure (hypertension) was a fact of life: her mother, her grandparents, and her great-grandparents all suffered from the condition.
I’ve been on medication for it for years,” she says, but her pressure would still soar, topping 215/100 on many days. “That kind of blood pressure makes you feel like not doing anything,” she says—and the same could be said of the side effects from the many medications she was taking to try to control her hypertension.
About a fifth of us are living with hypertension. Even though it often has no noticeable symptoms, for every five to 10 points of elevated pressure you have, you are at a two- to fourfold increased risk of death from stroke, heart failure, heart disease, or other heart-related condition. Though there is an abundance of treatment options, from lifestyle changes to medications, some people—about 10 percent of people who have hypertension—cannot get relief from the condition no matter what they do. People like Dina, whose blood pressure remains elevated despite being on three or more medications, are considered to have what’s known as resistant hypertension.
Many people who have resistant hypertension become frustrated, even resigning themselves to their condition, but Dina wasn’t willing to settle for that. “I felt like I was going to die, the way I was,” Dina says, “so I took a chance on getting help for myself.” Through Duke’s resistant hypertension clinic, Dina became one of the first patients in an ongoing study of a new way to treat blood pressure at its source—which may not be where you think it is.