High blood pressure
Description of High blood pressure
Definition of Hypertension
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It occurs as a result of the blood flowing through your blood vessels, being consistently too high.
Causes and Risk Factors for Hypertension
There are two types of hypertension namely, essential hypertension (primary hypertension) and secondary hypertension.
Essential hypertension is a condition in which the exact cause of hypertension is not known. It has a multifactorial etiology namely:
1. Genetic factors: Hypertension runs in families and children of hypertensive parents tend to have increased blood pressure.
2. Factors present at birth: Low birthweight is associated with subsequent high blood pressure.
Secondary hypertension is caused due to a specific and potentially treatable cause like:
1. Kidney disorders
2. Endocrine causes: Conn’s syndrome, adrenal hyperplasia, pheochromocytoma, Cushing’s syndrome, and acromegaly.
3. Congenital cardiovascular defects
4. Drugs: Oral contraceptives, NSAIDs, steroids, antihypertensive drugs, and illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines.
Some common factors that increase your chances of developing high blood pressure are:
1. Older age: Adults over the age of 35 are at a higher risk for having high blood pressure.
2. Family history: If either your parents or grandparents had high blood pressure, there is an increased chance of developing high blood pressure.
3. Overweight/obesity: If you are obese or overweight there is increased risk of suffering from hypertension.
4. Diet: If your diet regularly consists of foods that are high in sugar or fat content and low in minerals and fibers then you are putting your body at increased risk of developing hypertension. Increased sodium intake (which comes from salt) increases the risk of hypertension.
5. Lack of exercise: Reduced physical activity increases your weight which in turn increases your risk of hypertension.
6. Drinking too much alcohol regularly: Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day, increases your chance of having high blood pressure.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension
Most people with hypertension are asymptomatic, even if their blood pressure is very high. Some people may present with headaches, nosebleeds, or palpitations. Hence, generally it is an accidental finding during a routine checkup.
You must get your blood pressure checked after age of 35 especially if you have other risk factors. Owing to the fluctuating nature of high blood pressure, you must get it measured at different time of the day or after specific triggers like exercise, exertion, etc. It is very important to take two to three blood pressure readings during each visit for about three to four appointments so it can be made sure that patient is actually suffering from hypertension. Other investigations like complete blood count, kidney function tests, serum lipid profile, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) may be required to rule out secondary hypertension.
Treatment of Hypertension
There are many drugs like beta-blockers, alpha-blockers, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, etc. that help in controlling high blood pressure. Depending on the cause of hypertension, the severity of the condition, and presence or absence of other concomitant diseases, your physician will select medicine that is best for treating your hypertension.
Complications and When Should You See a Doctor
After considering the risk factors mentioned above, if you suspect your pressure could be on higher side, you should visit a doctor to get it checked regularly for few days so a diagnosis can be made and accordingly, treatment is decided for you.
The complications of untreated hypertension include:
a) Chronic kidney failure
b) Heart disease like heart attack, and a risk of stroke
c) Sudden death due to internal bleeding in the brain is also possible.
Frequently Asked Questions about High blood pressure
With no obvious symptoms, it is possible to have high blood pressure for years before developing any visible symptoms and becoming aware of it. Common signs of high blood pressure are headache, sweating, nervousness, dizziness, shortness of breath and nosebleeds. Signs like these are missed most of the time and misunderstood for a stress headache/migraine, or ‘ weakness’ or a result of stress. Triggers for high blood pressure, among others, are family history, age and weight, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol, stress, and excess salt intake.
Having a history of high blood pressure in the family increases your chances of developing this disease. i.e. parents, grandparents and siblings. Though, your spouse’s family history of high blood pressure does NOT increase the risk for it.
Being overweight at any age increases the chances of developing high blood pressure. However, if you are above 40 and overweight, then chances are extremely high that you have high blood pressure.
A sedentary lifestyle, wherein you end up not engaging yourself in physical activities, along with stress increases the odds that you may have high blood pressure. Similarly, regular and excessive consumption of alcohol, such as 1-2 glasses or more every day, puts you at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
Processed foods are full of salt and a diet that is high on ready-to-eat foods tends to be high on salt. As a result, a diet high on salt increases the risks of high blood pressure exponentially.
Increasing dietary potassium shall significantly help to lower blood pressure levels, study reveals. In a recent study, conducted by University of Southern California (Health Sciences), experts studied the association of dietary potassium with low blood pressure levels. Researchers studied and reviewed the association of blood pressure with dietary sodium and sodium – potassium ratio in the body. The study reviewed several studies that demonstrated the link between the two. It was found that higher dietary potassium (estimated from urinary excretion or dietary recall) was associated with lower blood pressure levels, regardless of sodium intake. It was also observed that when the dietary potassium levels are high, more salt and water is excreted by the kidneys, which also increases potassium excretion. As per the study, eating potassium-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas, and coffee were found to lower the blood pressure levels.
1. Garlic powder in the dosage of 600-900 mg per day is a useful remedy for high blood pressure. 2. Arjuna bark powder when taken in the dosage of 4 gm twice daily causes significant improvement in hypertension. 3. Two tablets of Sarpagandha vati (250 mg) taken twice daily have shown good results in reducing blood pressure. 4. Having Ashwagandha powder 2 gm with milk also helps to reduce blood pressure. You must always consult an Ayurvedic doctor before starting any medication.
As per Ayurveda, high blood pressure or hypertension involves a disruption of balance in the blood (doshas) primarily by vata dosha with pitta and kapha being the secondary doshas. This leads to changes in various organs causing the disease.
According to Ayurveda, hypertension can be attributed to 2 types of causes. 1. Diet-related Causes (Aharaj-nidana): These include excessive salt intake (atilavana), alcohol intake (atimadyapana), and meat consumption (mansa-sewan). 2. Lifestyle-related Causes (Viharaj-nidana): These causes chiefly include staying awake at night (ratrijagarana), sleeping during the day (divasvapna), holding on to natural urges like urination (vegavidharana), sedentary lifestyle (avyayama), overexertion (ativyayam), stress and anxiety (manashetu).
Panchakarma is the procedure of full body massage (Sarvanga Abhyanga) with medicated oils followed by induced vomiting and purgative therapy (Vaman and Virechan) or medicated enema (basti) may be administered depending upon the vitiated dosha and condition of the patient.
Meditation and other relaxing techniques can help you in stress reduction. You can also benefit from Pranayama, Shavasana, Vajrasana, akarasana, Dhanurasana, and Sukhasana, if practiced regularly and appropriately.
In a study, the researchers studied the effect of sugary drinks on the blood pressure levels of people included in different cohort studies. The study included an analysis of six studies conducted for more than 240,000 people. Findings from the study suggested that people who drank sugary drinks more often were at 12% increased risk of blood pressure compared to those who drank none. The drinks broadly included sodas, fruit punch, lemonade and sports or energy drinks. It was also observed that people who regularly consumed these sugary drinks consumed less healthy food through out the day and therefore had severe health issues.
According to the American Heart Association, one should restrict salt intake to less than 1.5 gm/day to lower risk of blood pressure and heart diseases. Prepare salads using fresh fruits and veggies. This directly decreases the extra intake of salt compared to frozen or canned fruits/ veggies. Stay away from food items such as cheese, which may not taste very salty, but are a source of added sodium. Avoid adding additional salt to your salads and side dishes.
Every community in India cherishes its specialty pickle overlooking the disadvantages that it offers. They serve as a rich source of salt and sodium, which when added to the pickle acts as a preservative. Alike pickles, papads too are loaded with salt. Though happen to satisfy the cravings of your taste buds, but are totally unhealthy.
Foods packed with sugars add extra calories to your diet and lead to weight gain and needless to say, obesity itself is one of the major risk factors of hypertension. It is recommended to take no more than 5-6 teaspoons of sugar for an adult a day. Make sure you read the food labels on every food or grocery (such as tomato sauce, salad dressings, condiments) you purchase. These food additives serve as a rich source of sugar and salt.
Processed foods, be it soups, sauces, juices, fruits, meats, all are high-sodium devils. Handy and a saviour at the time of crunching and snacking, but they completely unhealthy for hypertension patients. Canned and processed foods have been found to be high on salt, preservatives and transfat, which is a big NO for patients with hypertension.
Alcohol acts as a double-edged sword for the hypertensive patients. When consumed in moderate amounts it helps in reducing your blood pressure, whereas, excess of alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Alcohol also disrupts and prevents the efficient working of the medicines. Excess of alcohol has also been found to be a major reason for weight gain
Caffeinated drinks such as colas, soda, energy drinks or coffee, have been found to spike the blood pressure. If you are amongst those who would start their day with a morning cup of coffee, and have blood pressure, it is time to change this routine. Instead, replace your morning cup of coffee with green tea and reap its countless benefits.
French fries topped with additional salt, serves best as a snack for you, but is amongst the worst snacks to pick if you have hypertension. Replace your snacking with healthy small eats such as unsalted nuts, salads and roasted namkeens.
Rich source of organic chemical compounds that impair the production of stress hormones, the pthalides in Celery, expand the blood vessels. This gives the blood more space to move and thereby help in reducing pressure. Ways To Use: Prepare a healthy smoothie by combining stalks of celery, spinach, ginger and a tomato in a blender with water and less salt. Strain and have with a dash of lime.
The top number (systolic blood pressure) measures pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats (when heart contracts).The bottom number (Diastolic blood pressure) measures pressure in blood vessels in between heartbeats (when heart is resting). Normal BP means values less than 120/80 mm Hg (120 systolic AND 80 diastolic) for adults aged 20 or over. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is when blood pressure is constantly at or above 140/90. Systolic blood pressure is more important than diastolic blood pressure.
It contains an amino acid called L-citrulline, which has proven to lower blood pressure. It is loaded with fiber, lycopenes, vitamin A and potassium. All these nutrients have blood pressure-lowering effects. Add watermelon to your fruit salads or have a glass of watermelon juice.
Bananas are low in sodium and rich in potassium which helps lower blood pressure. Add banana to your daily diet in cereal, fruit salads or have it as mid-day snack.
Carrots are high in potassium and beta-carotene which have been shown to be effective in reducing high blood pressure. Have them in your daily salads or as cooked. You can also have a glass of freshly prepared carrot juice daily.
Spinach is low in calories, high in fiber and packed with nutrients like potassium, folate, magnesium – key ingredients for lowering and maintaining blood pressure levels. Have it in cooked form or add fresh spinach leaves to salads.
Beetroot (Chukandar) is rich in nitrates, which is thought to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Drink a glass of beet juice daily to help in keeping your blood pressure in check
Oats are high in fiber and help reduce both systolic and diastolic pressure. You can start your day with a bowl of oats every morning
One of the main culprits that cause high BP is stress. Ashwagandha is a rich source of adaptogens, that help the body cope with stress and anxiety. It also boosts immunity and has a calming effect on the mind. Ashwagandha can be procured in the powdered form over the internet and also from Ayurvedic medicine stores. Mix two tablespoons of Ashwagandha powder in a glass of water and drink it on an empty stomach every morning.
A raw clove of Garlic consumed each morning can curb high BP. Studies show that the medicinal property of garlic is particularly potent in this regard and it also reduces cholesterol levels in the blood.
The bark of the Arjuna tree is famous for its role in controlling hypertension in humans. It reduces the accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels, thereby reducing pressure on the heart. The bark of the Arjuna tree is also available in powdered form and should be taken daily in the morning with water for best results.
Another amazing Ayurvedic medicine that offers countless health benefits is triphala. Consuming two tablespoons of triphala powder every morning would help in maintaining normal BP levels, lessen cholesterol and plaque accumulation in the veins and the arteries. Its anti-inflammatory qualities further reduce the strain on the blood vessels.
This herb comes loaded with anti-oxidants and saves the arteries from free radical damage which in turn controls the build-up of plaque in the blood vessels. This herb, like the others is also available in powdered form and can be taken the same way as Triphala.
The Indian favourite after meal mouth freshener is surprisingly beneficial in keeping the rising BP in check. It works by inhibiting the production and function of the stress hormones that cause the blood vessels to shrink and BP to rise. Have a pinch after heavy meals to aid digestion and control BP.
One of the more decorated ingredients in Ayurveda, an amla or Indian gooseberry can be consumed raw in the morning with black salt or its juice can be mixed with a tablespoon of honey and consumed daily. The fruit has been proven to keep BP in check and improve heart health.
This fiber-rich root is loaded with potassium and magnesium that helps maintain normal blood pressure levels and in proper kidney functioning. You can try out baked dishes, salads or sweet potato chips.
Sunflower seeds have been gaining popularity as a healthy snack option but many might not know that this seed helps decrease your blood pressure levels too. It contains significant amounts of magnesium. Eat them as a snack but without salt to get the beneficial effects.
Beans are on the healthy foods list in general but they should be in high blood pressure patients diet lists for their blood-pressure lowering effects. Have all kinds of beans like red kidney beans, white beans, black beans as part of soups, as side dishes or as fillings in sandwiches and wraps.
Berries have recently gained attention for the large amounts of anti-oxidants found in them. Besides this, berries also contain potassium and fibre that helps in lowering blood pressure.
Having gained the status of a super-food quinoa comes loaded with protein and magnesium. Easy to cook and incorporate in diets, quinoa can be added to salads and other dishes as substitute to white rice.
People who are physically active are often able to reduce the number of high blood pressure medications they are on. 30-45 minutes of brisk walking 3-4 times a week could lower the blood pressure by 7-8 mm Hg. This will also keep your weight in check. A weight loss of even 4.5 kg can lower blood pressure. A 10 kg weight loss could lower the blood pressure by 5-20 mmHg.
Olives contain chemicals which increase good cholesterol levels and has been shown to cut down the risk of heart disease. It is also rich in antioxidants which reduce damage to arterial walls of the heart.
Coconut water which is packed with potassium, magnesium & Vitamin C is a natural way to main blood pressure. Potassium counteracts the effects of sodium (found in salt) which is known to increase the blood pressure. It also maintains a healthy heart by lowering bad cholesterol, reduces plaque formation in the arteries, increases circulation, & maintains good cholesterol in the body.
Maintain a log-book to record your test results. It is best to take 3 readings, each about 2 minutes apart and then take an average of the readings for more accurate results. The test can also be performed at the same time on consecutive days. If you find abnormal readings across 4-5 tests, consult your doctor.
Potassium is the main mineral in pigeon peas (arhar) that acts as a vasodilator and reduces blood pressure. Those who suffer from hypertension should add pigeon peas to their daily diet to ward off this ailment.
Ginger blocks the flow of calcium into heart cells which lowers blood pressure. Drink ginger tea before breakfast for good results.