KNOWING YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure or, in common medical terms “Hypertension”, is an important public health challenge in both economically developing and developed countries. It is the major known causes of disability and premature death in the United States. Despite massive education programs across the States, misconceptions still abound. In fact many people still harbor misconceptions about what actually constitute an elevated blood pressure, and of course there are probably still many individuals whose high blood pressure has not been diagnosed.
So the big question still remains how much do you know about your blood pressure at this point in your life?
WHAT IS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates through the body. It becomes high when blood pressure stays elevated overtime or when blood circulates at a persistently increased pressure and causes health problems. It can lead to heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease which are leading causes of death in the United States.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
High blood pressure is called the “Silent Killer” because it usually has no obvious symptoms. Many people don’t realize they have it until it reaches the critical stage. Only your doctor can tell you if you have high blood pressure. Therefore it is important you visit your doctors regularly. When high blood pressure is not known and left untreated for a long period of time, it can lead to the following complications:
- The heart gets larger, which can lead to heart failure
- Narrowing of blood vessels in the kidney, which may cause kidney failure
- Blood vessels in the eyes may burst, which can cause vision changes and can result in total blindness
- Atherosclerosis and angina due to hardening of arteries
- Chronic inflammation
- Negatively effect on your energy level
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
There are no defined causes of high blood pressure; however, the following could be the causes of common cases of high blood pressure. These include:
- Kidney disorder: compromised kidney function due to fluid retention as a result of excessive intake of sodium or salt can increase your blood volume which increases blood pressure.
- Some medications: some drugs use to treat other conditions can raise your blood pressure. For example, some birth control pills use by many women may result in a small rise in blood pressure. Other drugs that may likely elevate your blood pressure are cortisone or other steroids medications, arthritis medications such as non steroidal anti-inflammatory agents Indocin, Naprosyn and nasal decongestants.
- Increased blood vessels associated with aging, stress, inflammation and heart disease
Other high blood pressure risk factors are:
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity or overweight
- Heredity and race
- Eating large amounts of salts or sodium supplementations
- Insulin resistance
- Excessive caffeine
- Diet low in potassium, magnesium, and calcium or dehydration of these macronutrients from the body.
HOW DO I MANAGE OR TREAT MY HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
The treatment options available can be classified into Non-pharmacological therapies and medication or drug therapies
The following non-pharmacological life modifications can help in lowering your blood pressure as well as prevent progression to heart attacks, heart enlargement, heart failure, stroke death, and kidney damage.
- Reduce your sodium intake: The American Heart Association suggests that reducing sodium consumption can help reduce risk of high blood pressure, so it is advisable you reduce your daily salt intake to minimal. You can do this by
- Not using salt on food at table
- Avoiding obviously salty foods- processed meats, peanuts, pretzels, ketchup, e. t. c.
- Maintain a moderate alcohol intake: while alcohol in moderation is acceptable in most people by The Joint National Committee on Detection, Evaluation, and treatment of High blood Pressure, but drinking more than a few drinks a day might be harmful, not only to your brain and liver, but also to your cardiovascular system.
- Lose weight if you’re obese, as obese people significantly have an increased incidence of high blood pressure as well as high blood cholesterol and diabetes. So losing weight will help you normalize your blood pressure and may also control your diabetes if you’re diabetic.
- Undertaking moderate physical activities: A moderate exercise programs combined with low salt diet and weight reduction is an important component in any non-pharmacological treatment program for high blood pressure. Increased exercise helps burn up some calories and control excess weight, and adds to your well-being. So it is necessary to set aside a time to exercise everyday- activities such as taking a brisk walk, playing tennis regularly cycling and swimming all provide excellent means of relaxation and provide all most all of the benefits in terms of reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease that are associated with vigorous exercise.
- Eat a healthy diet low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and salt: Eat diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dietary products and grains as these foods are enriched with potassium, and magnesium that hydrate the body and help control your blood pressure. Examples of food rich in potassium are orange juice, blueberries, spinach, dried fruit, potatoes, bananas, catfish, while magnesium rich diets include whole grain cereals, green leafy vegetables and beans and any supplementations that can help hydrate the system with these metabolites or elements.
Medications: seek your doctor or other health care professionals for prescription of drugs for high blood pressure.
Common medications used to lower blood pressure include:
- Diuretics: Diuretics, commonly referred to as “water pills” help lower blood pressure by increasing the kidneys’ excretion of sodium, which in turn reduces the volume of blood. Other available medications are
- Beta blockers
- Angiotensin converting enzymes inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Nervous system inhibitors
- Alpha blockers
- Alpha beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers