Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is increasingly common in the western world & Europe and starting to rise in the rest of the world as well as the stress of daily life increases globally. Doctors and other medical professionals often refer to high blood pressure as ‘the silent killer’.
High blood pressure has been dubbed ‘the silent killer’ by doctors because it is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney disease and several other life-threatening conditions yet it typically presents with no symptoms. So just what is high blood pressure exactly and what can you do about it?
What Is High Blood Pressure or Hypertension?
High blood pressure is anything over 120/80. The first figure is systolic blood pressure and the second is diastolic blood pressure. These measurements refer to the maximum and minimum pressure levels in the arteries.
While it is possible to have low blood pressure, high blood pressure is both more common and also much more damaging. Even a moderately high blood pressure can lead to a doubling or tripling of your likelihood of heart attack or stroke.
Many of those with high blood pressure do not learn of this until they have it measured incidentally e.g. when admitted to hospital or moving to a new city and registering with a new doctor. By the time this happens, much damage to your circulatory system will already be done.
Everyone should ideally buy their own blood pressure monitor or at least stop somewhere regularly where you have access to one. Taking a single measurement once in your life is not enough as it may have been unusually low at the time. You must instead take an average of several readings taken at different times of the day, over several days.
Ways To Reduce Your Blood Pressure For A Healthy Heart
If you have high blood pressure, how can you reduce it?
Drugs are one method. You must usually take a cocktail of drugs in order to minimize the side effects. You should understand that high blood pressure is an observation, a measurement of the pressure your blood exerts. Drugs do not address the root cause – instead they attempt to manipulate your blood pressure indirectly. For example, diuretic drugs help you to eliminate sodium by making you urinate more often and, despite this obvious and intended side effect, they are the recommended first-line drug therapy for hypertension. Beta blockers have been used for many years but have recently fallen out of favour in some countries as they may provoke type 2 diabetes.
Though high blood pressure can have a genetic cause, most of the time it is due to diet and lifestyle. For diet, you should reduce your sodium intake, make foods instead of eating processed ones, increase your fibre intake and reduced saturated fat intake. You can also take a few beneficial supplements such as garlic pills and fish oil (Omega-3) capsules. Moderate but regular exercise (even walking) is highly beneficial. Even if you still need drugs after making such changes, your dosage will be reduced and the severity of any potential side effects will also be reduced.
Of course, stress is another cause of hypertension, and prolonged stress can be as adverse to your heart health as improper diet or lack of physical activity. Try and eliminate any causes of stress you can in your daily life, and consider trying yoga, meditation or similar practices to help you relax regularly and free your body from the negative effects of the stresses you can’t avoid.
These are just a few simple steps that can help you, but be sure to consult your doctor if you even THINK you may have high blood pressure – hypertension leads to heart attack & stroke, and those two kill more North Americans each year than cancer does. Don’t mess around with, or ignore, your blood pressure. Seek medical advice and follow it, and under your doctor’s guidance work to improve your diet, reduce your stress and start an exercise regime to help you get, and stay, heart healthy!