Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, the world’s number one killer. It is symptom free but it can be treated simply.
High blood pressure (BP) means increased pressure in the arteries that carry oxygenated blood from the heart around the body. Blood pressure is measured in two numbers, such as 120/80. The top reading is called ‘systolic blood pressure’and the lower reading is called your ‘diastolic blood pressure’. Systolic BP is the pressure that your heart has to exert to pump blood around the body. Diastolic BP is when your heart relaxes after pumping blood to the body. Everyone’s BP fluctuates and never stays the same, varying to meet your body’s needs.
Usually a systolic blood pressure of 120 -140mmHg is considered normal. Diastolic blood pressure of 75 -85mmHg is considered normal. Sometimes systolic blood pressure can be higher than 140mmHg or your diastolic blood pressure higher than 85mmHg.The main concern is consistently higher readings, not ‘one off’ higher reading. Many factors can influence blood pressure measurements. EG: the size of the cuff used, the placement of the cuff, the machine or the operator’s technique or how you feel at the time. Sometimes stress or anger or feeling anxious can affect your blood pressure reading.
The best time to measure your blood pressure is when you are rested or have been lying down for about 10 minutes. Blood pressure of 150/95 is considered high and over 180/110 considered very high.
Why hypertension is the ‘silent killer’
High BP usually does not give you any symptoms or warning signs — you can have high BP and feel perfectly well. You may not know that your BP is high until it’s checked by a health professional, although occasionally some people may experience headaches due to hypertension. High BP can cause serious health problems if not managed well and kept within normal limits, such as stroke, heart attacks or kidney failure. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) with build-up of plaque can contribute towards high BP. When the arteries are narrowed, it increases the resistance that heart has to pump against, in turn increasing the pressure within the heart. Long-standing high BP can eventually affect the heart’s pumping chamber (left ventricle). When the resistance the heart has to pump against is high, it causes the heart muscle to get thicker, like when you lift weights and your muscles gets thicker and firmer. When this happens in your heart muscle, the left ventricle gets thicker and less effective in pumping blood out, which can lead to heart failure as well as other complicated heart conditions, e.g. hypertensive Cardiomyopathy.
Burden of lifestyle factors
Overweight and obesity is a major factor for high BP. When your heart has to pump blood through to extra body mass, it increases the pressure within the heart. Continuous strain on the heart muscle can contribute towards a sudden heart attack or related heart conditions. It is imperative that we maintain our body’s ideal weight to reduce the workload on the heart by maintaining the BP within normal limits.
Cigarettes smoking can also contribute toward high BP by increasing bad cholesterol and clogging up your arteries. If you have high BP and take antihypertensive medications while smoking, you are fighting an uphill battle. Quitting cigarettes is crucial for everyone, especially if you are overweight, have diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or heart disease.
Many people take antihypertensive medicines but none of them ‘cure’ high BP. They instead chemically maintain your BP within normal limits and quite often doctors need to increase dosage over time. Most BP
medications have other side effects.
A risk factor, not a disease
High BP itself is not a disease or illness. Most of the time, it is a ‘lifestyle issue’ and your body’s way of saying it is under ‘pressure’ and needs some urgent attention. It could be an unhappy work environment, family situation or just where you are in life. Your body may not be comfortable with how you are treating it – perhaps from unhealthy eating habits, excess weight, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, as well as anger and aggression —as all these narrow and harden your arteries over time.
When you learn to live the life you DRAEM of, your body will release the ‘pressure’. Listen to your body, everything you need for good health is free – Walking, drinking water and breathing fresh air (breathe effectively).
Take care of your Heart ~ so that your Heart can take care of you.
10 Steps to alleviate high blood pressure with or without medication
- Regular walking – 30mins /day for at least 5-6 days/week. If you are bored with walking listen to music or an inspirational talk on an IPod. Walking the dog or walking at a busy work place is not enough to consider ‘cardio fitness’ exercise. If you have to work long hrs, make the time to walk after work or on weekends.
- Weight management – take ‘small steps’ toward managing weight – aim to lose 5 kg within the next 6 -8 weeks… then gradually get to a target goal that you feel that you can maintain. Make weight management easy & fun for you.
- Stop Cigarette smoking – this is a must if you have high blood pressure. You can Quit within 60mins and become a non smoker – cardiacwellness.com.au/quitcigarettes
- Maintain your cholesterol levels within normal limits – Increase your good cholesterol levels with healthy food – Fresh Vegetable, fruits and more fish & nuts like walnuts etc.
- Eat less meats, saturated fats and trans fats (biscuits / cakes / baked pastries)
- Drink water – keep yourself well hydrated (if haven’t got heart or kidney failure or had a recent heart attack)
- Manage stress – look at your lifestyle and make changes to reduce stress
- Reduce salt – our body’s need salt. Yet avoid adding extra salt to food at the dinner table.
- Do relaxation or meditation sessions – be calm. Have quiet / alone times. Reflect on your life and your day, during these times. Learn from your mistakes and make changes if you are unhappy or stressed with current lifestyle.
- Start doing what you love doing – a hobby or visiting someone that you haven’t seen for a long time, or walk along the beach, or go bush walking, or take a day off and stay in bed with a good book.