Today I’m gonna be talking about “The Silent Killer”.
A couple of years ago our domestic worker got really sick and eventually died a result of high blood pressure. It was really sad because he had been around since we (my brother and sister) were kids and was basically part of the family. I was young at the time and did not understand the negative impact hypertension has on one’s health. That is why I am writing this post to make people sensitive to this silent killer which is known as hypertension.
A high percentage of adults all over the world have high blood pressure. These hypertensives are three times more likely to have a heart attack, five times more likely to develop heart failure, and eight times more likely to suffer a stroke than people with normal blood pressure.
So, how do you know if you have hypertension?
Hypertension is defined as the systolic blood pressure reading, which is the top number, consistently being over 130, and/or a diastolic reading, the lower number, being 85 and above. The optimal level is now below 120/80. Even though high blood pressure has no symptoms (that’s why it’s called the silent disease), it can cause progressive changes in the blood vessels until the first sign hit, which is usually a stoke or heart attack.
What causes blood pressure to go up?
Well, certain kinds of tumours will do it; also diseases within the kidney itself. But in 90 percent of everyday hypertension no specific organic causes can be determined. For this reason this kind of hypertension is called essential hypertension:
- High salt intake. Surprisingly, hypertension is uncommon in 80 percent of the world’s population where salt intake is also very low. In places where salt intake is high, like in Japan, the disease is epidemic, affecting approximately one half of adults there. Americans consume an average of 10 to 15 grams of salt per day. That’s two to three teaspoonfuls, which is about 10 to 15 times more than the body actually needs!
- Low Potassium. The potassium/sodium ration is of critical importance. Eating more vegetables while reducing salt intake would generally increase this ratio and lower elevated blood pressures.
- Obesity. Nearly everyone who is significantly overweight will eventually experience high blood pressure. It’s just a matter of time.
- Arterial Plaque. Narrowed and plugged arteries force the body to boost the blood pressure in order to deliver necessary oxygen and food to body cells.
- Lack of exercise
- Alcohol. Scientific studies have demonstrated that even moderate use of alcohol may account for 5 to 15 percent of all hypertension.
So why do people eat so much salt?
Well, in today’s western lifestyle, it’s hard to get away from salt. About 75 percent of our salt intake comes from fast and processed foods. A taste for salt is easy to develop, and salty snacks and foods abound to accommodate us.
Medications and hypertension
The past couple of years have produced an avalanche of new drugs that are effective in lowering blood pressure. Some are lifesaving. Most produce prompt results which is the quick-fix that people love.
But a closer look at hypertension medications reveals some disquieting facts, that is, the drugs do not cure hypertension; they only control it. In some cases the medications need to be taken for life. Unpleasant side effects may include fatigue, depression, and lack of sexual desire and impotence. While the drugs help protect against strokes, they do not protect against coronary atherosclerosis which is the plugging of heart arteries. They may actually promote atherosclerosis, diabetes, and gouty arthritis.
So what are the alternatives?
A number of major scientific studies have shown that simple dietary and lifestyle changes can reverse most essential hypertension in a matter of weeks without drugs.
A large percentage of people are sensitive to salt and would benefit from its reduction in their diets.
When weight goes down, blood pressure levels usually fall. Reducing excess weight is often the only treatment needed to correct a rising blood pressure.
A diet very low in fat yet high in fibre lowers the blood pressure about 10 percent even without weight loss or salt restriction.
Deleting alcohol form the diet will lower blood pressure and do the body a favour in several other areas as well.
Physical exercise lowers blood pressure by reducing peripheral arterial resistance. In addition, regular exercise promotes health and well-being.
People taking blood pressure medications should not play doctor and change doses or stop medicines on their own. But those who are willing to make healthful lifestyle changes will usually find their physicians glad to help them eat and exercise their way out of hypertension.
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