Raised blood pressure is the No.1 contributing risk for global deaths. Around 10 million people die each year needlessly and most worrying, only half of the people with high blood pressure are aware of it. Why not take the simple test which takes a few minutes but could save your life. See your GP or get it checked at one the Pharmacies that do these tests now.
High blood pressure puts a strain on the heart and arteries, and can damage delicate tissues, such as the eyes and kidneys. The higher the blood pressure the greater the risk of complications such as a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure is called the “silent killer”, but these warning signs must not be ignored they include headaches, sweating, rapid pulse, shortness of breath, dizziness and visual disturbances. Left untreated high blood pressure can lead to serious health conditions.
Perhaps a simple explanation of how blood pressure affects the body would be helpful – apologies to those with a fundamental understanding of physiology. Blood pressure is needed to carry blood from the heart to all parts of the body in vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats which about 60-70 times each minute while resting, it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure measures highest when the heart beats, and is pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is expressed as these two values given as millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Blood pressure is generally defined as being high when it is measured at above 140/90 mmHg. Normal is considered 120/80 mmHG.
The cause of high blood pressure is not completely understood but it is thought that probably the main cause lies in the brain and the sympathetic nervous system which prepares the body for emergencies, i.e. the “fight or flight” responses. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, it pushes more blood to the brain by constricting peripheral arteries, raising arterial blood pressure. In effect the body reacts to an imaginary threat that never goes away, keeping blood pressure constantly high. It is understandable that long periods of stress and anxiety are often cited as being risk factors.
Lifestyle choices e.g. smoking, being overweight and not exercising, together with genetic factors and age unfortunately can all increase the risk of high blood pressure; it is important that you follow your doctor’s advice but there are also lifestyle changes that can be of real benefit. I recommend the following changes which should help lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health naturally.
- Stop smoking and drinking coffee – Smoking kills please STOP!
- Caffeine is a stimulant which is known to raise blood pressure reduce your intake.
- Stop drinking alcohol or reduce your intake, have those alcohol free days.
- Lose and then maintain your weight so that you are no more than 5lbs above your ideal weight – remember this should be a gradual process, no crash diets.
- Exercise regularly – aerobic exercise will improve the health of your heart and vascular system. Brisk walking for half an hour five times each week will do it! Remember to “Move that body!”
- Learn relaxation techniques – yoga and meditation are brilliant for lowering blood pressure or contact me for some breathing exercises designed to relax the body.
- Reduce your intake of salt – read food labels and as I always recommend avoid processed food.