With the stressful lifestyles a lot of us lead, coupled with a less than ideal diet and a lack of exercise, hypertension is a reality for many of us. But what exactly is hypertension, who is at the most risk and how do you avoid getting it, or treat it once you have it? - Read on.
So, what exactly is hypertension?
According to JIS Robertson in Hypertension for the Clinician: "The term hypertension as usually applied clinically, means ‘raised arterial pressure’. Hypertension is not capable of a definition in absolute terms, since there is no threshold level at which blood pressure ceases to be normal and high blood pressure begins."
So, for the lay-person we can see that hypertension is directly related to blood pressure, it will vary according to the individual but your family doctor will be able to give you the low-down. Below is a chart that might make a little more sense:
|Systolic BP||Diastolic BP|
|Normal Blood Pressure||<140 mmHg||< 90 mmHg|
|Borderline||140 – 159 mmHg||90-94 mmHg|
|Hypertension||>160 mmHg||> 95 mmHg|
Below shows a table of how you can reduce your risk:
|Reducing Cardiovascular Risk in Hypertensives:|
Avoid being Overweight
Remain Physically Active
Control Saturated Fat Intake
Control Alcohol Intake
Reduce Dietary Salt
What causes hypertension (high blood pressure)?
There are a number of factors which may lead to hypertension, below we’ve listed a couple of things you should be aware of.
Age & Gender
Blood pressure raises in both childhood and adult life in Western populations. After the age of
50 years the diastolic blood pressure (when the pressure of the heart is low and the blood returns to the heart) tends to fall or remain constant, whereas the systolic blood pressure (when the pressure in the heart is very high and goes out of the heart) rises consistently with age. The difference that occurs between men and women is especially noticeable during youth. Younger women have generally a lower blood pressure than men do, but after the menopausal years there appears to be no difference between the sexes. (Hypertension in Practice, Beevers DG;
MacGregor GA, (1987))
You might get to share more than your Father’s ears, high blood pressure tends to run in the family, too. About 50% of hypertensive patients have a family history of high blood pressure and premature cardiac death. (Hypertension in Practice, Beever DG; MacGregor GA, (1987)).
Most studies of blood pressure in black and white people in the USA have reported higher average blood pressure in blacks, with a higher prevalence of hypertension. By contrast, rural blacks in Africa have low blood pressures, although hypertension is common in black people living in African cities. The difference may be less apparent after correction for socio-economic and dietary factors, (Hypertension in Practice, Beever DG; MacGregor GA, (1987)).
Body Mass Of all the variables found to be associated with hypertension, body weight is the one in which there is the most agreement. Elevated blood pressure occurs more frequently in overweight people. A weight loss of 12kg could be expected to produce a blood pressure fall of 21/13 mmHg. (First measurement - systolic and last measurement – diastolic) (Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Pate RR (1991)).
Alcohol Consumption We all know a couple of glasses of wine a day can be good for you, but excessive drinking may cause a pre-disposition for hypertension. Despite considerable logistical difficulties involved in assessing alcohol intake, almost all studies have shown a relationship to hypertension. Heavy drinking is associated with increased blood pressure in both sexes and in all racial groups. (Hypertension. Pathology, Diagnoses and Management. Vol. 1, Laragh JH; Brenner BM, (1990)).
The incidence of hypertension is increased among diabetics. (Clinical Atlas of Hypertension. Swales JD; Severs PS; Peart S, (1991)).
Other factors such as diet and stress are more controversial. It is believed that a high salt intake gives rise to a higher blood pressure. Whereas higher potassium intake lowers the blood pressure. However no studies can exclusively validate these results. (Clinical Atlas of Hypertension. Swales JD; Severs PS; Peart S, (1991)).
How is blood pressure influenced by exercise?
Regular cardiovascular exercise (3x / week for 20-30 min. duration) such as walking, swimming, cycling, etc. Has been shown to lower blood pressure significantly (as well as increase levels of ‘friendly;’ HDL cholesterol). Regular exercise will result in a number of changes. Some in particular include:
- A lower resting heart rate (pulse)
- Improved strength of the heart ‘muscle’ which leads to a larger amount of blood being pumped out with each beat (more sufficient)
- Fatty deposits in the blood vessels are cleared out (less restriction)
- Reduced stress levels
- Reduced body weight
The relationship between high body weight and high blood pressure is of great importance in the control of blood pressure. It is suggested that for each kilogram lost a fall in blood pressure of 3/2 mmHg may be observed, with greater effects seen in men than women.
Restriction & Potassium Supplementation It is not clear whether restricting salt intake and
increasing potassium intake really works in lowering blood pressure, as there are many contradicting studies. It can, however, be recommended that hypertensive patients become aware of their salt intake and make simple dietary modifications to limit their intake.
Simple suggestions would be:
- Do not add salt to cooking or at the table
- Avoid very salty foods
- Eat less fat and more fresh fruit and vegetables (high in potassium) (Clinical Atlas of Hypertension. Swales JD; Severs PS; Peart S, (1991))
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with raised blood pressure; it would therefore be beneficial to limit intake to a couple of glasses of wine or a beer each day.
Inactivity is associated with many health problems. There is evidence to suggest that inactive individuals have a greater risk of developing hypertension. Measures of increased physical activity also seem to correlate with lower blood pressures.
There are a lot of factors that influences blood pressure, some of the factors you have control over and there are some that you don’t have. If you have high blood pressure please consult with your physician first, and then from there by doing regular exercise you will be able to control your blood pressure.Related Links
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