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Blood Pressure : Killing By Stealth

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At least 600 million adults across the world are now understood to be suffering from persistent high blood pressure (hypertension). In recent years doctors have needed to define a new level of risk, prehypertension, as a warning of potential problems. During the course of our lives, as few as 1 in 10 of us will avoid a blood pressure problem, with half of us dying from hypertension's frequent outcome - either a stroke or heart disease.

The sinister thing about hypertension is that it kills by stealth. Most of the damage it does occurs without the person realising it. Yet hypertension is incredibly easy to detect with a few pain free seconds in a pressure cuff, and also relatively easy to treat with a few lifestyle changes.

So why has the problem grown to this extent? We are all continually bombarded with commercials, and magazine articles which reinforce the importance of living a healthy life. Yet most of us choose to ignore the message and indulge in all the "bad" things such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and high fat snacks.

Who Is At Risk?

First lets understand the meaning of your blood pressure reading. The reading is represented as two numbers, 140/90 or 160/100 for example. The first number is the pressure against the walls of the blood vessels during a heartbeat, the systolic pressure. The second and lower number reflects the pressure taken between heartbeats, the diastolic pressure. Below are the blood pressure levels recommended by the American Heart Association (units mm Hg):- Normal: 120 or less / 80 or less Prehypertension: 120-139 ( systolic) or 80-89 (diastolic) Stage 1 Hypertension: 140-159 or 90-99 Stage 2 Hypertension: 160 and above or 100 and above

Factors Beyond Your Control

African Americans and those with a dark complexion (e.g., Bahamians and Native Americans) are at a much higher risk. While the reasons may not be clear, some believe that this is due to genetic or environmental factors.

Hypertension offers mercy to no-one. Males are more apt than females to suffer from hypertension before the age of 55. Since women tend to be more health-conscious, they often take preventive measures to eliminate the possibility of hypertension, though they are still at risk for the disease.

Through the process of aging, the risk of having high blood pressure increases. Adults between the ages of 50 and 65 are more prone to suffer from hypertension. Bodily changes have a direct effect on the heart, blood vessels, and hormones. Combined with other risk factors, such changes increase your probability of developing hypertension.

Family history can also indicate a risk. Twenty-five percent of adults that have a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure have a 60 percent risk of developing hypertension. Genetics, environment, and your access to receiving good health care are all determining factors. A family history doesn't mean that you are destined to have high blood pressure. However, it does mean that you should take preventative measures to ensure that your vulnerability is low.

Factors We Can Change

Being aware of your risk is the first positive step you can take in "lowering" your risk of hypertension Being overweight or obese, a lack of exercise, eating badly, smoking and drinking too much, all play a role. Changing your lifestyle has a definite impact.

Overweight individuals are vulnerable to hypertension in a number of ways. High fat diets are usually high in salt, which raises blood pressure. Carrying excess weight requires the heart to work harder, which forces the blood to flow even harder through the vessels. In addition a blood gas that relaxs the vessels is destroyed by the layer of fat located around the gut.

Healthy eating is the first step to reducing your risk. A low-fat, low-salt, high nutrient diet is recommended. Reduce your intake of processed foods, salty snacks and cured meats. Eat more fish and poultry. Fill up on fruits and vegetables. Better eating habits can lower the needle on the bathroom scales and on the pressure monitor.

Sodium can be a deadly enemy of the body. The most popular dietary source of sodium is ingested through the use of salt. Increasing your salt intake requires the body to hold more water. The body first stores this water in the bloodstream and then it deposits it in the tissues. Fluid retention causes stress on the heart and escalates the chances of developing high blood pressure. Potassium helps promote a healthy balance of the amount of sodium in cell fluids. Fruit - such as bananas - and vegetables are an excellent source of potassium.

Physical activity, such as a short 20-minute walk or housecleaning event, can have a dramatic impact on your life. Any form of exercise assists your heart in the effort to pump blood throughout your body. Lack of exercise causes the heart to work harder, resulting in elevated blood pressure. Strive for at least 30 minutes of exercise three or four times per week.

Nothing can be worse for hypertension than smoking tobacco. It causes the heart rate to rise and at the same time hardens and constricts the blood vessels. Consequently the pressure rises even higher, causing further damage to the heart and blood vessels.

Alcohol consumption is harmful to your health in various ways. An infrequent glass of beer or wine won't affect your blood pressure significantly, but uncontrolled consumption can cause serious health issues. Taking three or more alcoholic beverages each day almost doubles your chances of developing hypertension.

Get Smart

Those who are most at risk for high blood pressure should consider a change of lifestyle in order to decrease the chances of developing the disease. The commitment to a healthier life style is something that can be made by everyone. Don't gamble, make an intelligent decision to lower your risk of hypertension.



By Edward Vorwerden
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Biography: After recovering from a stroke at the age of 37 Edward Vorwerden has put his efforts into providing a quality online resource for health related issues, RV Health.

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