It’s the one thing that many of us don’t like to look at. In fact, for most of us, we avoid it as much as possible. It’s one of many tests that we can perform on ourselves in order to find out if we are unhealthy in some way. Let’s face it, we don’t like to know that we are unhealthy in some way, which is why we don’t go to the doctor’s office nearly as much as we should. That is why this is the one particular case where special attention should be paid. High Blood Pressure is a very serious condition of the body which can lead to many high risk problems including coronary heart disease. This week our focus is going to be on what you should know about high blood pressure, what the latest statistics are, what preventative measures you can take to avoid high blood pressure, and what you can do to lower your high blood pressure if you are already at risk. Of all the awareness topics that are written about here at HCBL.com, we feel that high blood pressure is the one particular topic that should be taken very seriously. That being said, this article will be one of the most fact filled and educational newsletters written thus far.
HPB (High Blood Pressure or Hypertension) is well known in the medical community as the, “silent killer.” This is because high blood pressure is asymptomatic, or a condition which doesn’t have onsetting symptoms which let you know that your blood pressure is too high. It’s a well known fact that 1 “1 in 3 adults in the United States has HBP.” That is an absolutely huge amount of people who have this condition and literally do not know about it without proper testing. Again, the condition is one of the highest risks because it has no warning signs of the detrimental damage that it can cause to your body. 2“Of all people with high blood pressure, 67.9 percent were under current treatment, 44.1 percent had it under control, and 55.9 percent did not have it controlled.” You can be fine one day, and the next you may be struck with Coronary Heart Disease, Heart Failure, Stroke or even Kidney Failure. And those are only the top four problems which commonly occur with HBP, there are many other problems which can be caused by HBP or are related to it.
So what is blood pressure exactly, and how is it measured? 3“Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body.” This force is measured in two distinctive ways. Systolic pressure, which measures the pressure when the heart beats while pumping, and Diastolic, which measures the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. The following chart best indicates what proper blood pressure numbers are as well as how you can compare your blood pressure to what the normal ranges should be for your age. What is important to take into account is the “New Classifications” that are shown on this chart as health insurance companies are using this as a guide as well.
As indicated on this chart, a “Normal” range for blood pressure is your Systolic pressure to be at 120 or below, and your Diastolic pressure to be at 80 or below. Anything above those numbers, will put you in the Pre-Hypertension category, and will begin to increase the risks that high blood pressure can have on your body. If you are someone who suffers from Diabetes or Chronic Kidney Disease, your HBP numbers are a little different. Your “Normal” range is considered to be 130 over 80.
You think that you eat properly, you exercise enough, and you sleep or nap quite often. So how can you be at risk for high blood pressure? Well, unfortunately these are the same things which most people who are diagnosed with Hypertension say about themselves. The truth is that the types of foods that you eat, type of exercise which you get, and amount of sleep that you are getting, are all common problem areas which create HBP. First and foremost a diet which is high in sodium and fat content, will without a doubt increase your blood pressure greatly.
4According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American receives sodium by the following means:
5 percent added while cooking
6 percent added to food after cooking
12 percent from natural sources
77 percent from processed and prepared foods.
The largest problem with sodium is no different than other chemicals in your body. What most people forget is that all the different things that you take into your body on a daily basis have to be processed before entering your blood stream. The kidneys are that processing center, and whenever there is too much for them to go through, they’ll simply leak the excess into the bloodstream without filtering it. This is what happens when excess sodium is ingested, and because there is more sodium in the bloodstream than normal it forces the body to retain water, which then increases the amount of blood in your capillaries and veins. 4)”As a result, the circulatory system has to work harder to pump the blood. Over time, this added strain on the system can result in heart disease and kidney failure.”
The next highest problem which creates HBP is fat, more specifically saturated fats. We’ve already looked at how salt can make the blood itself thicker in your circulatory system forcing your heart to work harder to pump it through your body. Now try to imagine that your heart has to pump that high volume blood through thinner pipes than it’s used to doing. That is the exact effect which is created by a diet that is high in fat. Think of the walls of your blood vessels as brand new pipes for plumbing. The pipes are regulated to handle a specific amount of flow in order to keep them in perfect working order.
5“The buildup of plaque begins when the normally smooth lining of the artery becomes damaged, usually caused by such factors as high blood pressure and smoking. The body repairs the injury with the release of platelets that collect at the site. Progressively, fatty deposits called plaque form at the damaged site. Plaque is composed of fat, cholesterol and cellular waste products. The resulting condition is atherosclerosis, which is a specific type of arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. The buildup of plaque narrows the lumen of an artery and restricts blood flow to the organs and tissues. Narrowing of the arteries close to the heart leads to coronary artery disease. Carotid artery disease is a consequence of atherosclerosis in the arteries close to the brain. Plaque accumulation in the arteries in the arms and legs caused peripheral artery disease. It is possible that a piece of plaque will dislodge and travel from the artery to smaller blood vessels. Blood clots can develop around a tear in plaque deposits. Both of these possibilities restrict blood flow and can cause a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism.”
So now that we know what HBP is, and what some of the common risk factors are, how can we help you to prevent these problems from occurring? Well of course the first and most obvious answer would be to regulate your diet a little bit better. We’re not talking about a drastic change in your diet, nor crash dieting. Most people hear the word diet, and think that they have to restrict themselves in some way to become healthy. The truth to eating is that you fall into certain habits and patterns. And changing those habits is the only hard part of eating healthier. Once you’ve started making a conscious effort to eat foods that are less processed, higher in vitamins and minerals, and lower in fat, you will start to notice not only how much healthier and full of energy you will be, but also how much better non-processed food tastes. It will actually help to change your palette in such a way that processed foods will start to taste bad by comparison. You won’t have to eat less, and you don’t have to starve yourself, you simply need to re-evaluate the types of foods you eat, and what the sources of them are.
And example of changing dietary habits can be seen in this chart from the Mayo Clinic(http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-healthy-diet/NU00196):
|Fats to choose||Fats to limit|
As you can see in the above chart, there are still many options for the oils and butters that are found in most foods, but they are options which are far lower in saturated fats. This doesn’t mean that you can never eat foods with saturated fats either. You simply have to regulate how often you intake high fat foods.
The 2nd most effective way of keeping your risks of HBP low would be through exercise. Yes, the one dreaded task which most people don’t even like to think of, let alone hear the word. However, as we talked about above, the change in your dietary habits will give you that extra energy that you need to not feel as sluggish on a daily basis to exercise. So what types of exercises are best to help you keep your blood pressure under control? In general, cardiovascular exercise would be the best way possible to keep your blood pressure healthy, and help you lower your blood pressure if it’s already at risk of being hypertension. You should start to work yourself up to a pace of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least 3 to 4 times a week. This can start with as little as 10 minutes, until you feel comfortable enough to work out for a period of 30 minutes. It’s important that you stretch before you exercise so that you lower the risk of injury that may be caused to your body as a result of using your muscles and joints for various aerobic exercises. You want to make sure that your routine for exercise maintains a warm-up period, a conditioning period, and a cool-down period. These 3 stages are important to both keeping you healthy as well as helping your body adjust to the work that it is doing.
(from WebMD.com ‘http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/exercise-healthy-heart?page=2‘)
- Warm-up. This helps your body adjust slowly from rest to exercise. A warm-up reduces the stress on your heart and muscles, slowly increases your breathing, circulation (heart rate), and body temperature. It also helps improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The best warm-up includes stretching, range of motion activities, and the beginning of the activity at a low intensity level.
- Conditioning. This follows the warm-up. During the conditioning phase, the benefits of exercise are gained and calories are burned. Be sure to monitor the intensity of the activity (check your heart rate). Don’t over do it.
- Cool-down. This is the last phase of your exercise session. It allows your body to gradually recover from the conditioning phase. Your heart rate and blood pressure will return to near resting values. Cool-down does not mean to sit down! In fact, do not sit, stand still, or lie down right after exercise. This may cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded or have heart palpitations (fluttering in your chest). The best cool-down is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity. You may also do some of the same stretching activities you did in the warm-up phase.
“But what about all the advertisements I see about simply taking an aspirin a day, or a glass of wine, to lower my blood pressure?” Well, there is some truth to taking aspirin on a daily basis to reduce heart disease or stroke related to HBP, however there are also risks as well. 6“Aspirin interferes with your blood’s clotting action. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding.” How does it interfere? Well aspirin thins your blood, which prevents it from clotting. So if you were to say have a piece of plaque come off from an arterial wall in your body and cause damage, usually your platelets would essentially cause a clog in that artery as they tried to patch up the damage which was caused. This clog is inadvertent, your body is simply responding to the injury as it normally would, the only abnormal part is the amount of build-up within the artery that isn’t accounted for. This buildup along with the platelets, creates the clog which then blocks blood from going to your heart or your brain causing a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin, however, makes your blood particularly thin, and as such makes it easier for your blood to flow around any types of obstacles or blockages in your vessels. The negative side to this effect however is that there are known cases of people who take aspirin on a daily basis and develop internal bleeding. In a case where you have internal bleeding, and thin blood, you essentially hemorrhage internally which can cause death quickly depending on the affected area. So while taking an aspirin a day can help you to prevent heart disease and stroke, it is not a recommended solution for everyone.
So how about that glass of wine? Red wine contains a high amount of antioxidants known as polyphenols, 7“which help to protect the lining of the blood vessels in your heart.” Red wine also contains the mineral Resveratrol, which has proven to be a key factor in reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes. 7“However, those findings were reported only in mice, not in people. In addition, to get the same dose of Resveratrol used in the mice studies, a person would have to drink over 60 liters of red wine every day.” So while red wine may be a good solution as a source of Resveratrol, it’s not a very healthy way of getting the amount you would need.
Last but not least, if you have already been diagnosed with Hypertension stage 1 or 2, then your doctor will likely have you on specific medication that can help you lower your blood pressure. You may only have to be on the medication for a short period of time, or depending on the damage that has been caused, you may have to be on it for a long time. One thing is for sure, which all doctors will agree on, changing your eating habits and getting a small amount of exercise on a daily basis, can greatly increase your health, and lower your need for having to take blood pressure medications in order to regulate HBP. For more information on what you can do, speak with your doctor at your next scheduled appointment. As always, we here at HCBL.com thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. We hope that it has been informative for you, and we also hope that you take the steps necessary to avoid being at risk of falling into the hands of the Silent Killer.