High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)   Leave a comment

Heart during contraction (systole) and relaxation (diastole)

High blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, is one of the most common diseases afflicting people worldwide,  affecting 50 million people in the U.S. alone. It is also a very important challenge to public health as it is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. HBP is the most important modifiable risk factor for coronary heart disease (which is the #1 cause of death in the West), stroke (the 3rdleading cause of death), peripheral vascular disease, congestive heart failure and kidney failure. HBP is also often misunderstood, mistakenly associated with people who are nervous or tense. But this is untrue – calm and relaxed individuals can also have HBP. It is sometimes known as the ‘silent killer’ because people with hypertension do not have symptoms, except in extreme cases known as hypertensive emergencies (BP >180/110; symptoms can include chest pain, severe headache and vision changes).

What is hypertension?It is essentially the measure of force applied to the blood vessel, or artery, walls.

Blood pressure is a measure of the force exerted on artery walls.

When the blood pressure, or force exerted on the vessel walls becomes high, then over time the vessel walls become overstretched and injured. This can create weak areas that can eventually rupture and cause strokes and aneurysms. Overstretching can also cause tiny tears in artery walls that form scar tissue and which can become nets, catching debris like cholesterol or blood cells. These trapped blood cells can form clots that can block arteries, or break off, travel through the circulatory system, and block arteries that supply other organs, such as the heart and brain, resulting in a heart attack and stroke, respectively. Many other parts of the body, such as the eyes (blindness), kidneys (renal failure) and legs (peripheral vascular disease), can be damaged by uncontrolled or poorly-controlled HBP.

What is normal vs. high blood pressure? According to the American Heart Association and other medical professional groups, normal BP is a systolic (top) number less than 120 and a diastolic (bottom) number less than 80. The systolic number is a measure of the pressure within the blood vessel when the heart muscle contracts; the diastolic number is a measure of the pressure within the artery when the heart muscle relaxes (and the heart refills with blood). Stage 1 HBP is systolic 140-159 or diastolic 90-99; Stage 2is

Kidney damaged by high blood pressure

systolic 160 or above, or diastolic 100 or above. Systolic >180 or diastolic >110 is considered a Hypertensive Crisis requiring emergent care.

Risk factors for HBP. These include family history of HBP, diabetes, age, ethnicity/race, male gender (until 45; after 64, more women have HBP than men), obesity/overweight, smoking, excess alcohol (i.e. more than 2 drinks/day for men or more than 1 drink/day for women), lack of physical activity, high cholesterol and high-salt diet.

How Can I Prevent and Treat HBP? There are eight ways to do this: eating a heart-healthy diet including less salt; avoiding tobacco use; limiting alcohol; exercising regularly; keeping a healthy weight; taking medications as prescribed; and reducing stress.  

  • What is a Heart-Healthy Diet? It is a food plan that includes plenty of high-fiber whole grains, fat-free & low-fat (1%) dairy foods, fruits, vegetables, beans, skin-free chicken & turkey, fish (particularly fatty fish containing omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, trout and herring) and lean meats. Reduce sugar, saturated and trans fats, as well as salt (sodium). Spices described in this blog such as coriander, cumin, paprika or a host of others such as garlic, ginger and oregano are healthier alternatives to salt!

REFERENCES
American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp
American Society of Hypertension http://www.ash-us.org/
Children’s Specialists of San Diego, Division of Nephrology http://www.cssd.us/body.cfm?id=755
Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/DS00100
Chobanian AV et al. Hypertension. Dec 2003;42(6):1206-52.
Kardiol.com http://kardiol.com/
Medscape http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/241381-overview
PubMed Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001502/

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Posted August 2, 2011 by lipiroy in Health Topics

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