“Blood pressure”, is a term we hear rather often in our day-to-day lives. But do we know what it really means? It is not something that should be taken lightly. High blood pressure can have a severe impact on your heart health. So, it’s important that we have a deeper understanding of what exactly it means and how it can affect heart health.
What is Blood Pressure?
The heart pumps out blood to the rest of the body that is carried through the arteries. When this happens, there is also a certain amount of force that the blood exerts on the walls of the arteries, which is known as blood pressure. Blood pressure has two measuring components to it — systolic blood pressure is the pressure your heart is exerting against the artery wall while your heart is beating and diastolic blood pressure is the pressure exerted while your heart is resting. It’s normal for blood pressure to vary throughout the day. Blood pressure ≤ 120/80 mmHg is considered normal, where 120 indicates systolic blood pressure and 80 reads for diastolic. A reading higher than 140/90 mmHg is considered to be high blood pressure, also called “hypertension”. Hypertension over time can lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart attack or stroke, and this is why it’s important to keep blood pressure regulated.
There are typically no noticeable symptoms of high blood pressure, therefore, regular checkups would be advisable.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
There are different ways that one can become susceptible to hypertension:
As you gain weight, your tendency to develop high blood pressure also increases. This occurs when adipocytes release the hormone leptin which triggers the sympathetic nervous system directly impacting the kidneys resulting in sodium reabsorption and in turn increases blood pressure.
An unhealthy Diet
Foods that increase cholesterol have a direct effect on increased blood pressure. This happens when excessive cholesterol is left behind as deposits in the arteries that clog the pathway and cause narrowing of the arteries, making it more difficult to pump blood. Some common food items that can increase cholesterol are red meat, full-fat dairy, processed foods, deep-fried, and fast food.
People with diabetes are at greater risk, which means they need to consume the right kinds of food to keep their blood pressure in check. Diabetes and Hypertension frequently occur together and can often cause complications like damage to the arteries due to plaque build-up called atherosclerosis, heart attack or stroke.
A sedentary lifestyle with a lack of physical activity contributes to hypertension. Other lifestyle factors, such as the consumption of alcohol and smoking, play a significant role as well. Also, the fast-paced lifestyle that we are living nowadays is rather strenuous and leads to greater stress levels, which also affects blood pressure.
Complications of High Blood Pressure
Negative effects of high blood pressure can result in several cardiovascular complications:
High blood pressure damages arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood flow to the heart muscle. Additionally, there can also be the accumulation of fat built up from cholesterol. This fat or “plaque” in turn leads to the creation of clots that block blood flow streaming between the heart and body, and consequently, oxygen and nutrients, resulting in a heart attack.
A stroke occurs when insufficient blood is supplied to the brain. The intense pressure on the arteries can considerably rupture them. When this happens, it damages your arteries and their ability to pump blood to the brain, i.e. the organ of your body that is responsible for your overall functioning.
Chronic Kidney Disease
High blood pressure can result in Chronic Kidney Disease. When this happens, kidneys become damaged and can’t filter blood efficiently. The kidney is an important organ that flushes out toxins and removes excess fluids from your body. When kidney function deteriorates due to damage, the inability of the kidneys to eliminate toxins and regulate excessive fluid can lead to cardiovascular complications.
High Blood Pressure Prevention and Treatment
There are proven ways how to control high blood pressure with easy steps one can take to curb or reduce it:
Exercise helps to manage your weight and maintain it. Exercising is a scientifically validated method to reduce high blood pressure and prevent hypertension. Walking/running, swimming, dancing, or even weight training – choose the type of exercise that suits you best and can be beneficial for blood pressure management
Aim to include more heart-healthy foods in your diet that limit the increase of cholesterol. This includes whole foods or unprocessed foods, as opposed to processed foods that are high in saturated fats and raise bad cholesterol. It also makes a difference to use heart-healthy blended cooking oils such as Saffola Gold that can help manage cholesterol. Read more about the difference between good and bad cholesterol. Reduce your sugar intake, especially if you are at risk of/diagnosed with diabetes.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Incorporating a workout routine, limiting alcohol intake, and cutting out smoking are all lifestyle changes you can make for a healthier life. When talking about how to control blood pressure, it is also equally important to cope with stress to avoid health complications. Meditation can help soothe your mind which then manifests as physiological changes within the body.
Now that we’ve learned all that we need to know about the impact of hypertension, and how to control and manage blood pressure, it’s in our best interest to be more mindful of the factors that play a role in its development. Just a few easy modifications can lead to a much healthier heart, and therefore, a healthier life!