High blood pressure according to experts remains a silent killer which, if not properly managed, could lead to heart attack, stroke, heart diseases and chronic kidney disease , among other health problems.
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a long -term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. It remains a major factor for stroke, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, dementia and sudden death of both young and old people, experts say
However, there are certain things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. These include eating right, getting the right amount of exercise, and controlling salt intake. But first, what is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure or force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. In hypertension (high blood pressure), the pressure against the blood vessel walls is consistently too high.
High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because you may not be aware that anything is wrong, but the damage is occurring within your body.
The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure taken. It is best to know your numbers and make the changes that can help prevent or limit damage.
*Understanding BP readings
Having blood pressure numbers that are within the normal (optimal) range of less than 120/80 mm Hg remains the best. It could be backed up by keeping to good heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
Again, knowing how and when to put blood pressure under check is very important. Hence the need to consider the following:
*Elevated blood pressure
Elevated blood pressure is when readings are consistently ranging from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control it.
*Hypertension Stage 1
Hypertension Stage 1 is when blood pressure is consistently ranging from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) such as heart attack or stroke.
*Hypertension Stage 2
Hypertension Stage 2 is when blood pressure is consistently ranging at levels of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications along with lifestyle changes.
This is when high blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again.
If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis . If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Remember,your blood pressure numbers and what they mean.
Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers:
First is Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) which indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
Second is Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) which indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats. But which number is more important?
Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure (the top number) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
Those more likely to have high blood pressure are people with family members who have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.
Others are those who are overweight, people who are not active, people who drink a lot of alcohol, people who eat too many fatty foods or foods with too much salt and people who smoke.
*How to reduce your risk of high blood pressure
Fortunately, there are certain things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. These include the following:
Eat right : A healthy diet is an important step in keeping your blood pressure normal.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) emphasizes adding fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet while reducing the amount of sodium.
Since it is rich in fruits and vegetables, which are naturally lower in sodium than many other foods, the DASH diet makes it easier to eat less salt and sodium.
Keep a healthy weight : Going hand-in-hand with a proper diet is keeping a healthy weight. Since being overweight increases your blood pressure, losing excess weight with diet and exercise will help lower your blood pressure to healthier levels.
Cut down on salt: The recommendation for salt in your diet is to have less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day (equal to about one teaspoon). To prevent hypertension, you should keep your salt intake below this level.
Use herbs and spices that do not contain salt in recipes to flavour your food; do not add salt at the table. (Salt substitutes usually have some salt in them.)
Keep active : Even simple physical activities , such as walking, can lower your blood pressure (and your weight).
Drink alcohol in moderation: Having more than one drink a day (for women) and two drinks a day (for men) can raise blood pressure.