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High Blood Pressure: the Silent Killer

Blood pressure is the force blood applies to the arteries when it passes through them.

High blood pressure occurs when the heart pumps blood (systolic blood pressure) at a pressure of more than 140 millimeters of mercury, and when the heart's pressure at rest (diastolic blood pressure) is equivalent to or higher than 90 millimeters of mercury.

High blood pressure is classified into:

1. Primary, or of no known cause
2. Secondary, as a result of some disease.

High blood pressure occurs when the arteries become smaller or when they are damaged and the heart can't easily pump blood through them. Therefore, the heart exerts more force and pressure in order to pump blood and carry it and its nutrients to all the organs that need it.

Around 50 million Americans take medicine for high blood pressure and 15 million don't even know they have high blood pressure because, in general, they don't show any symptoms. That's why, high blood pressure is known as the "silent killer."

Having high blood pressure has significant consequences for your health. These include a higher likelihood of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Arterial injuries also cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and other organs such as the eyes, which is particularly important for diabetics because high blood pressure provokes a rupturing of the small vessels of the eye thus resulting in diabetic retinopathy.

Factors that influence the onset of high blood pressure

Risk factors you can modify to stay healthy that influence the onset and control of high blood pressure include the following:

  • Excess Weight.The risk for high blood pressure is 2 to 6 times greater for overweight people.
  • Smoking.This activity damages the blood vessels and for each cigarette smoked, high blood pressure increases by 5 millimeter of mercury.
  • Using oral contraceptives.
  • Consuming a lot of animal fats (saturated fats)because they increase "bad" cholesterol.
  • High consumption of alcohol.
  • High consumption of salt.
  • Physicalinactivity.

Factors you can't modify are:

  • Family background of high blood pressure
  • Age has an influence as arteries become weaker with age.
  • African-Americans have a greater risk of suffering from high blood pressure than Caucasians, while Hispanics have risks similar to those of non-Hispanic Caucasians.

Tips for lowering high blood pressure

Modifying your lifestyle is the basis for treating high blood pressure. You can achieve this if you:

•  Control your weight.It's been observed that high blood pressure lowers considerably when people are on a weight-loss diet. MyDietcan help you achieve it!

 Do physical activity.This helps you lose weight and once you've lost those extra pounds, it helps you maintain your weight. Try to do 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, or you can divide this time into short 10-minute periods. Try walking, riding a bike, or doing recreational activities. For example, a recent study revealed that gardening can be just as beneficial as any other type of exercise and, in addition, it improves mental health.

• Modify your eating habits.Some changes to your diet can largely benefit your health. Identify sources of salt (sodium) and potassium. The latter has beneficial effects on lowering high blood pressure, and the same goes for calcium.

• Consume less processed food. Buy and prepare more natural products such as fresh fruit and vegetables. When you go to the supermarket, read the labels and check to see that the sodium content in foods is not too high (less than 5%). In restaurants avoid deep-fried foods and look for fresh options.

• Eat less salt.You should replace part of the salt you're used to using for cooking with spices and herbs.

• Use healthy cooking methods.You should steam vegetables in order to conserve the potassium they contain. Almost all fruits are rich in potassium such as bananas, oranges, papayas, and melons. Potatoes are also a good source of potassium.

• Reduce fat intake.You can make low-fat meals by using half the margarine or butter you normally use.

All these changes will help you maintain a healthy heart. Making changes to our lifestyle not only benefits us, but also our family and friends. Practicing what you preach is the best way to keep your family healthy.


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