Can you escape one of the world’s deadliest silent killers?
If we’re referring to high blood pressure, yes you can. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic, there are about 75 million people in the United States who have high blood pressure. That’s one in every three American adult or 32% of the population.
Sadly, many of them do not know that they have the heart disease or not aware of the symptoms, making high blood pressure the leading cause of death in America alone. That’s around 1,100 deaths every day, according to a 2014 statistical report. With poor lifestyle and stressful environment, it’s highly likely that the number has gone up since then.
So this begs the questions, what is high blood pressure? Why is it known as a silent killer? What can I do to prevent or treat it? To answer the questions, let’s go back to the basics and understand the what, why and how to stop the world’s deadliest silent killer from taking away the long, healthy life you deserve.
What is high blood pressure?
This heart disease is defined as tension or high pressure in the arteries, which are, in layman’s terms, vessels that carry blood originating from the heart to the entire body. This heart condition is also known as hypertension.
To measure your blood pressure, a digital or aneroid sphygmomanometer is used. This is a medical device that has an adult cuff that is used to wrap around your left or right arm just above the elbow. The one doing the reading, mostly a doctor or a nurse, will pump air into the cuff via an air valve until the cuff tightens in the arm. Air is then released using a bulb and the blood pressure is read through the dial. In digital sphygmomanometer, the same principle applies, but reading will appear automatically on the screen.
Blood pressure readings are based on two numbers. The number at top, which is called systolic blood pressure, is equivalent to the pressure the blood arteries each time the heart contracts. The number at the bottom, also known as diastolic pressure, is the numerical equivalent of the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes. Once you get the readings, you will be able to tell if your high blood pressure is normal or out of whack. Here’s a chart to determine whether your blood pressure is normal or not:
|Systolic in mm HG (Top number)||diastolic in mm HG (bottom number)||Result|
|120 and below||80 and below||Normal|
|Between 120 and 139||Between 80 and 89||Pre-hypertension|
|Between 140 and 159||Between 90 and 99||Stage 1 Hypertension|
|160 and higher||100 or higher||Stage 2 Hypertension|
These numbers serve as your guide. However, these should not serve as a definite diagnosis of this condition. If you suspect that your blood pressure is beyond normal, the best move to make is to visit your doctor so he or she can make a proper diagnosis because there are several factors to consider, depending on your family history, your health, lifestyle and many others. Some individuals may have high blood pressure readings but are considered normal for his or her built. The abnormal pressure reading may also due to an underlying illness that you need to address to.
Why should high blood pressure be treated?
As we know, blood is essential and its proper circulation to promote life. Blood circulation aids in transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells and organs in the body. It also helps in removing carbon dioxide as well as other waste.
Each time your heart beats, a pressure is created in order to push blood through the arteries and the veins. When the heart relaxes after a beat, blood is drawn back to the heart muscle to push blood again. When the blood pressure rises, this can disrupt the system and cause the heart to work doubly hard to pump blood for the entire body.
And while the arteries are made of muscles that are slightly flexible, the force of the pump (high blood pressure) can cause the arteries to overstretch. When this happens, vascular scarring or tears in the blood vessels can occur. The tears in the tissue can cause cholesterol buildup, which increases the risk of developing blood clots. When this is left untreated, tissue damage and weakened walls will occur. As the buildup worsens, fresh oxygen will no longer be transported to cells and organs. And when there is no oxygenated blood, the result is heart attack or stroke. And if we can’t be more obvious, a heart attack can be deadly, and a stroke can lead to permanent disability. Aside from that, lack of oxygen in the organs can also cause permanent damage to the kidneys, brain, eyes and heart.
And as mentioned before, it’s hard to tell if you have high blood pressure until it’s too late. This explains why it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle early on to protect yourself from developing high blood pressure later in life.
What causes high blood pressure?
Unlike viral or bacterial diseases, there no exact causes for hypertension. However, there are several factors that contribute to the development of this dangerous heart disease. These include the following:
- Overweight or obesity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Physical inactivity or sedentary lifestyle
- Sleep apnea
- Family history and genetics
- Old age
- Thyroid disorders
- Adrenal disorders
- Chronic kidney disease
While these are conditions that can increase your risk of developing the disease, it doesn’t mean that you will develop high blood pressure if you experience any of those mentioned above. The best move you can make yourself to protect your arteries is to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle and fill your bodies that with nutritious food.
Avoiding foods that can trigger high blood pressure food should be done, such as the following:
- Foods that are high in sodium such as processed foods and canned foods.
- Omega-6 fats and trans fats. These type of fats increases blood pressure and inflammation in the arteries. These unhealthy fats are commonly found in packaged and processed foods as well as conventional meats.
- Caffeine. Yes, coffee and other caffeinated drinks can cause hypertension. Although it doesn’t happen immediately, it causes gradual increase in blood pressure. According to Mayo Clinic, “…People who regularly drink caffeinated beverages have a higher average blood pressure than do those who don’t.”
- Alcohol. This can narrow the arterial walls, causing a spike in your blood pressure.
How to treat high blood pressure?
There are medications that your doctor will prescribe to you in order to control your higher than normal blood pressure. The first thing your doctor will ask you to, though, is to make lifestyle changes, especially if your blood pressure is in the pre-hypertension stage. Also, depending on his her medical evaluation, your doctor will also prescribe dietary and lifestyle changes before putting you on prescription medication.
So before submitting yourself to high blood pressure medicines, which can lead to long-term side effects, it’s best to try these natural remedies first:
Cut Down on the Salt
This flavor-adding kitchen ingredient is not really the problem but the chemical component found in salt called sodium. While sodium is not totally bad, per se. Too much of it, however, can cause an imbalance of body of fluid.
Think of it this way. When you eat too much sodium, the viscosity level in your blood will increase. To put it simply, it thickens. When that happens, the heart will have to pump extra hard in order to push thickened blood out to the entire body causing a rise in blood pressure.
So in order to reduce your risk of developing the disease, cut down on the salt. It doesn’t mean that you have to do away with salt. You just have to add less salt to your cooking. It also helps to pay attention to the food you’re eating. Read the labels before purchasing processed and packed food.
Reducing your salt intake can be hard at first, but as you gradually use less and less salt, your taste buds will adjust until you get used to eating food with less salt. In fact, when you’ve adjusted, you’ll find yourself repulsed at taste that’s too salty.
Move Your Butt
Exercise should really be high on your list. In fact, this should a huge part of your life because exercising triggers lot of benefits for your body. In fact, according to Time, even small amounts of exercise or small physical activity can do your body a lot of good. It’ll make your feel happier, reduced moments of depression, improve your skin, shrink fat cells and help you recover from illnesses fast. Most importantly, it can help reverse high blood pressure.
The human heart is a kind of muscle, and like any other muscles in the body, it becomes stronger with physical exercise. Pumping blood will become easier for the heart to do will require less effort, lowering the level of exertion the heart does to your arteries in pushing blood.
The truth of the matter is exercise is the number one remedy that can get your blood pressure back to normal. The bonus is you get to shed excess fat, which is a great favor you’re doing to your arteries and your blood vessels.
The good thing about exercise is that you don’t need to enroll at a gym. Even 30 minutes of physical activity, like sweeping or scrubbing the floor or cleaning the house. As long as the physical activity will get you to sweat and take your heart rate up, you’re already exercising.
Take Fish Oil
Ever wonder why almost all tuna commercials include phrases like “It’s good for the heart!” or “Guard your Hearts!”? That’s because tuna along with salmon, mackerel, sardines, oysters, mussels, halibut and many other seafoods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps in lowering blood pressure.
Not only that, increasing your omega-3 fatty acids can help in reducing triglycerides as well as increasing your high-density lipoproteins or HDL, which is a good type of cholesterol.
Many heart surgeons prescribe fish oil to patients who have undergone heart transplant in order to prevent the development of high blood pressure after the procedure.
Omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil can be sourced from natural foods, such as seafood, but it can also be taken in the form of supplements. There are many fish oil supplements available in the market today. And you have the option to choose whether to take liquid fish oil, which you can take with orange juice, or the pill form. When buying canned tuna, be sure to check the sodium content on the label. As much as possible, go for fresh fish.
Include Garlic in Your Diet
This pungent-smelling seasoning is one of those home remedies that really work in improving your blood pressure back to normal levels. However, there is a catch when using garlic. Allicin, an organosulphur-sulfur compound that is responsible in providing health benefits to garlic, isn’t really effective when eaten raw. The reason is Allicin’s many health benefits are deactivated once it comes into contact with stomach acid, which has pH level lower than three.
In order to reap the full benefits of garlic in treating hypertension, garlic should be taken in tablet or capsule form. This yields better results in lowering blood pressure to normal levels.
Drink Coconut Water Instead of Coffee or Alcohol
Potassium and magnesium found in sweet-tasting, thirst-quenching coconut water are found to be helpful in muscle function. And because the heart is a giant muscle, drinking coconut water regularly can really in treating hypertension.
Choose fresh coconut water that is found inside a green coconut. One cup or eight ounces of this liquid can do your heart a lot of good. In fact, make this a part of your daily ritual. Drinking at least a cup in the morning is ideal, though drinking one cup twice a day can also do your heart some good.
Don’t Let Stress Bug You
Stress is a daily part of life, but you shouldn’t let it get the best of you. Stress is the number one contributor to hypertension. While feeling the emotional stress is normal, it can also affect your blood pressure big time. This is especially true if stress leads you to eating or drinking unhealthy stuff or smoking.
If you’re under a lot of stress, make the effort to de-stress. Identify the factors that cause you to feel stressed and work to eliminate the stressors. For example, make time for activities that you love during the day. If your workload is stressing you, talk to your boss. It also helps when you change your expectations, learn to say no to things that aren’t worth your time and avoid people who pull you down or are too negative. Solve problems that you can control as well. There are many ways you can do avoid stress. Just remember never to run more than your strength. Otherwise, stress will get you and that is bad for your heart.
Each cigarette stick you smoke increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Studies have shown that those who stopped smoking, regardless of their age, have seen improvements in their hypertension and increase life expectancy.
When you decide to quit smoking, it’s always best to seek medical intervention especially if you’ve been smoking for years. The reason is the withdrawal symptoms can be harmful to your health and may lead to failure when trying to quit.
Ginger and Cardamom Tea
While further research is still needed in order to determine its effectiveness, cardamom powder has showed significant reduction in high blood pressure. When combined with cinnamon and ginger, blood circulation is greatly improved. To make this delicious warm and spicy tea, you’ll need the following:
- Half cup of water
- One teaspoon cardamom pods
- Two teaspoons fresh ginger (minced) or one-half teaspoon ginger powder
- One teaspoon cinnamon powder
- Two to three teaspoons pure honey (for flavor)
- One-half cup milk
To extract the oil from cardamom, crush the pods using a mortar and pestle. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan except the honey. Bring to boil and let it simmer for six to nine minutes until it turns a rich caramel color. Strain the ingredients into a mug and add honey.
Yes, you read that right! Chocolates are good in lowering blood pressure because of the flavanols they contain. However, before you head over to the supermarket and fill a basket with your favorite chocolates, there’s a catch.
To reap the benefits of chocolates, go for dark chocolates or cocoa powder enriched with flavanols. Some chocolates contain sugar and caffeine, which can affect normal blood pressure negatively. Instead, go for chocolate brands that are made of pure cocoa, 70% dark chocolate and contains less ingredients.
The best way to escape the silent killer called hypertension is to take preventive steps. A consultation with your doctor will help you determine whether you need to take medications or natural remedies will still for you. Of course, the great thing about these remedies is they don’t have any adverse effects to meds so you can try these with your medications as advised by your doctor.