High blood pressure: What it is
The organs and tissues in the human body need oxygenated blood carried by the circulatory system around the body to survive and function optimally. As the heartbeats, the pressure is exerted to push the blood into a network of tubes: Veins, arteries, and capillaries to enable blood to circulate to all organs and tissues in the body. When the force or pressure exerted by the blood flow, in its bid to push blood through the walls of the blood vessels, remains consistently high, one is said to have high blood pressure or hypertension. The two forces that account for blood pressure are systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the force that pushes blood into the circulatory system; and diastolic pressure is the force at work when the heart rests between intervals of the heartbeat.
When blood pressure remains high consistently, dangerous, and life-threatening health issues such as heart attack and heart failure may arise.
As dangerous as hypertension is, it can be successfully managed without medication if one disciplines himself and observes the following religiously:
- Work on shedding extra weight: Adding much weight can cause disruption of breathing during sleep. Breathing disruption further increases blood pressure. Besides blood pressure tends to increase as body weight increases. Weight loss is one of the most effective ways of controlling high blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly: Exercising for about 30 minutes every other day can reduce blood pressure even in people who already have high blood pressure. However, patients of blood pressure, especially those are advanced in age, must be guided in their art of exercising. To achieve result one needs to be consistent in exercising for blood pressure may shoot up again if one quits exercising. Generally, low and medium intensity exercises like walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, and so on, are safe for people of all ages who want to manage their blood pressure.
- Eat healthy: Healthy diet is an important factor in the management of high blood pressure. Controlling high blood pressure by controlling what you eat is referred to as dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH). To ensure that what you consume is healthy, eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Consumption of low-fat products and less of cholesterol and saturated fat can reduce blood pressure drastically.
- Reduce salt consumption: Studies have proven that reducing salt consumption in your diet can reduce the risk of heart attack and reduce blood pressure appreciably. It is therefore advisable to limit consumption of sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day or even less. The ideal consumption level for adults is 1,500 milligrams a day.
- Cut down on alcohol intake: High consumption of alcohol raises blood pressure and reduces the effect of blood pressure medication (if you are on blood pressure prescribed drugs). There is therefore common sense in being moderate and disciplined in your drinking habit.
- Stop smoking: The demerits of smoking far outweigh whatever health benefit that is hyped to be associated with it. A new study published recently in New England Journal of Medicine has it that people who smoke take at least 10 years off their life expectancy; and those who kick the habit of smoking before age 40 reduce the excess risk of death associated with continued smoking by about 90%. It is scientifically proven that each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you are done. Quitting smoking improves health condition and minimises the risk of heart diseases and cardiac arrest.
- Regulate your caffeine consumption: While those who consume coffee regularly may experience little or no effect of the beverage on the blood pressure, those who rarely consume it may experience a leap in their blood pressure as they take it. If it is not exactly clear how your body reacts to caffeine consumption, you may talk to your doctor about it.
- Work on reducing stress: Stress can lead to high blood pressure especially if you respond to it by eating unhealthy food such as smoking and drinking. You can actually handle stress by doing things that you enjoy and by creating time to relax. Above all, looking at the sunny side of life and practising a life of thankfulness and gratitude can do the magic.
- Check your blood pressure regularly: Aside from the foregone, it is very important to check your blood pressure regularly at home and to visit your doctor regularly too. This practice will certainly reveal any early warning signal and keep you out of the danger zone of sudden death associated with high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is a silent killer; handle your body with wisdom.