The silent killerCebu Daily News
HIGH blood pressure is the most overlooked health problem in the country and all over the world. Most of those patients are getting adequate treatment by their physician. The rest may feel fine but they are at increased risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and other ailments. To find out more about detesting and testing this silent killer, I spoke with a prominent cardiologist.
When is the blood pressure considered high?
Any pressure above 120/80 is potentially problematic. We used to think that only the second (diastolic) number mattered. Now we know that the first (systolic) reading is important to. Hypertension is ranked in stages.
Pre-Hypertension - 120 to 139 80 to 89
Stage 1 - 180 to 159 90 to 99
Stage 2 - greater than greater than 160 100
My blood pressure is only slightly elevated. Is that cause for concern?
Even stage 1 hypertension can cause serious health problems. Everyone should try aiming for an optimal blood pressure reading of 115/75.
What causes high blood pressure?
We don’t know the full story. However blood pressure is a reflection of how hard your heart is pumping and the size of of your arterioles, special blood vessels that act as gatekeepers between the arteries and the capillaries, the tiniest blood vessels. Arterioles dilate or narrow according to nerve signals from the brain, which bases its decisions or feedback from nerve endings near the heart. These nerve endings constantly monitor your blood pressure. This feedback boosts your pressure when you exercise or
undergo psychological stress and lowers it when you’re asleep or relaxed. In hypertension blood pressure is consistently higher that it should be whether you are stressed or relaxed. Ninety percent of people with high blood pressure have primary (essential) hypertension. This condition seems to be largely hereditary, although excess weight, lack of exercise, high salt intake, alcohol consumption and age can also play a role.
What about the other 10 percent of cases?
They are the result of other ailments typically kidney disease, thyroid or adrenal gland problems or sleep apnea. Once the underlying disease is diagnosed blood pressure can usually be controlled.
What can I do to lower my blood pressure?
If it’s just a bit high, you can probably nudge it down into the safe range by making a few lifestyle changes:
1. Cut back on alcohol. Alcohol in any form raises blood pressure. Have no more than one ounce a day, which is the amount in two beers, a glass of wine or a jigger of whisky.
2. Exercise more. Get 30 to 60 minutes everyday of moderate activity like walking, jogging, cycling, etc. Becoming fit can lower your blood pressure by six to seven points.
3. Lose weight. Overweight people who reduce their body weight by 5 percent to 10 percent of
experience a significant drop in blood pressure.
4. Quit smoking.
5. Reduce sodium intake. Some people are salt sensitive others are not. My advice is to stop using too much salt and to avoid processed foods which account for two-thirds of daily salt intake.
Is there any special diet that can help?
In addition to reconstructing your salt intake, try to eat calcium and potassium, rich foods (especially fruits, grains and vegetables). These minerals promote excretion of sodium. Being a vegetarian also seems to lower blood pressure. Vegetarians not only eat more fruits and veggies than their eat-eating peers, but are thinner. Some people swear by magnesium supplements, fish oil, garlic and other purported pressure-lowering remedies. But there’s no hard evidence that these products have any beneficial effects.
When is it appropriate to treat hypertension with drugs?
If you’re more than a few points above normal your doctor will probably prescribe antihypertensive medication in addition to lifestyle changes. There
is now a wide variety of very effective antihypertensive. Diuretics remove sodium and water from the bloodstream, shrinking blood volume and dilating
arteries. Diuretics are especially effective in individuals whose blood pressure is salt sensitive. Diuretics can
deplete potassium levels so any patient taking
the should have his or her potassium levels carefully monitored.
Can hypertension be cured?
Once you have essential hypertension it never goes away. You’ll have to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis for the rest of your life. However with a combination of lifestyle changes and well-tailored medication, most people can bring their pressure down to safe levels. Do any kind of physical activity that will exercise your heart and strengthen your muscle. Eat more fruits and fresh vegetables. Do not overcook your vegetables as most of their nutrients are already drained. Eat more fish, especially the ones with scales on them.
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