As the heart pumps blood to various parts of the body, the force of blood flow puts pressure on the arterial walls. High blood pressure or hypertension can cause irreversible damage to your heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and other parts of the body.
If you monitor your blood pressure regularly, you can manage your high blood pressure through medication and lifestyle changes. However, left untreated, high blood pressure may result in adverse health effects.
Over time high blood pressure may result in hardening of the arteries. Continuous flow of blood and oxygen requires your heart to pump blood with more force through these narrow arteries. The result: chest pain or angina.
As the heart fails to function optimally, there is reduced flow of blood and oxygen to various organs. This may result in organ failure.
A heart attack may occur, as the heart is no longer able to pump blood and oxygen. Cell damage from lack of oxygen may even affect your brain leading to a stroke.
Although many adults suffer from hypertension as they get older, high blood pressure is not a sign of aging alone. Individuals with a family history of high blood pressure, obese or diabetic individuals, patients with other cardiovascular diseases and kidney disease or pre-hypertensive individuals are at an increased risk of suffering from high blood pressure.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
According to WHO estimates, high blood pressure kills nearly 8 million people globally in a year. Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure are hard to identify, which is why it is commonly referred to as the silent killer. Early detection and action to control high blood pressure readings can help avert more serious heart disease. Following symptoms may point to high blood pressure, although it would be best not to rely on these signs alone.
- Individuals may experience heart palpitations, headaches, anxiety, excessive sweating, sleep disorders, and flushes.
- Symptomatic headaches or migraines were considered to be a result of high blood pressure. However, recent neurological studies state that damaged nerve organs may result in a lack of pain. High blood pressure patients may actually experience fewer headaches.
- Nosebleeds, considered a symptomatic condition of high blood pressure, may be a myth too. Nosebleeds can result from other conditions such as dry air allergies, deviated septum, and sinus disorders.
- Optic nerve damage caused by high blood pressure may result in blood spots in the eyes. However, there is no clear indication that blood spots are a symptom of high blood pressure.Many of the above symptoms may occur only when blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels. Always get a blood pressure test as part of your routine check up to stay informed.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
Although blood pressure tends to increase with age, note that it is not be a symptom of aging. Several hereditary influences and diet and lifestyle habits may increase the chances of high blood pressure.
- Behavior and lifestyle habits can put individuals at a higher risk of hypertension. These include dietary habits such as the consumption of foods that contain excessive amounts of salt or sodium, sugar and processed foods, not receiving enough dietary potassium from foods such as fruits and vegetables, drinking too much alcohol and/or smoking.
- Being overweight or obese and not getting enough exercise puts you at a greater risk of high blood pressure.
- While primary or essential hypertension has no known causes and may develop gradually over many years, secondary hypertension may arise from diseases such as kidney problems, adrenal gland tumors, congenital blood vessel defects, substance abuse and even certain medications for cold, decongestants, birth control pills and hormonal medication for menopause. Over-the-counter painkillers for neck pain, joint pain or arthritis may cause a spike in blood pressure.
- Individuals already suffering from Type 2 diabetes are also at a risk of suffering from high blood pressure.
- Hypertension may be caused due to genetic influences. Combined with unhealthy lifestyle choices, hereditary factors put you at a greater risk of suffering from high blood pressure.
Remedies for High Blood Pressure
Monitoring your blood pressure regularly can help prevent complications that may arise from high blood pressure. Although blood pressure medications can help stabilize blood pressure, natural cures or remedies may help individuals manage their condition more efficiently. Small steps to get rid of adverse health effects caused by high blood pressure include the following.
- Reduce your sodium or salt intake if you already suffer from high blood pressure. Individuals above the age of 50 should limit their salt intake to 1500 mg per day. If you do not suffer from high blood pressure, you may limit sodium intake to 2300 mg a day or less.
- A heart healthy diet and regular exercise can help individuals maintain weight and beat obesity. Overweight or obese individuals are twice as likely to suffer from high blood pressure. Maintaining your weight also allows hypertension medications to work more effectively.
- Stress and anxiety can cause high blood pressure. Practice healthy coping techniques to beat stress. Physical activity and exercise helps improve your physical health and it also helps de-stress, but it may also be a good idea to practice specific relaxation techniques as well. Deep breathing techniques and meditation can help relax your mind and body.
- Many researchers have debated the benefits of using garlic or garlic supplements to lower high blood pressure. Some experts believe that garlic may have a minimal effect on high blood pressure; other studies indicate a moderate drop in systolic and diastolic numbers.
Allicin, a chemical compound found in garlic, helps to lower hypertension by relaxing blood vessels. Garlic may affect lipid profiles lowering cholesterol by about ten percent. Talk to your doctor about including natural herbs such as garlic and ginger to combat high blood pressure. Garlic powder or garlic supplements may provide similar benefits without the strong odor.
Diet for High Blood Pressure
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), endorsed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLB) and American Heart Association (AHA) offers guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure through your daily diet. The DASH diet is a low sodium, low sugar, high potassium diet that may offer both weight loss solutions and a healthy approach to treating high blood pressure.
- The DASH diet recommends at least 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. You may include vegetable juice and fruit juice as part of your daily servings. Fruits and vegetables are excellent natural sources of essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and a healthy dose of dietary fiber. Additionally, fruits and vegetables provide a significant source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.
- The diet also recommends that individuals include at least three whole grain foods per day and limit or avoid foods made from refined flour.
- Replace solid fats such as butter, cream and cheese with low fat or non-fat dairy products.
- Consume more high quality protein foods such as lean meats, poultry and seafood. Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids are particularly helpful in lowering high blood pressure.
- Nuts, seeds and legumes provide plant proteins that have heart healthy benefits and increase healthy cholesterol.
- In addition to healthy eating, the DASH diet recommends limiting your alcohol intake and stop smoking.
Suggestion for High Blood Pressure
With diet and lifestyle modifications, it is easy to control high blood pressure and the complications arising from it. Some steps to control high blood pressure include:
- If you are overweight, focus on your diet and exercise to lose weight. Maintaining the ideal healthy body weight can help prevent diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases, which may further increase your blood pressure.
- Lower your sodium intake, limit alcohol and quit smoking.
- Take a blood pressure test as part of your overall health check up. Consider home monitoring your blood pressure to keep it in check. For a more comprehensive guide on blood pressure readings visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website.
- Take your prescribed medications as directed. Follow the reccomended diet to help control blood pressure and include any supplements if advised to do so. Talk to your doctor first and discuss the pros and cons.