Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure.
It is a condition that occurs when the pressure inside of your arteries is too high. Because it is a silent disorder the only way to detect hypertension is to have your blood pressure measured.
Hypertension is a very common problem that affects about 50 million people in the United States alone.
That’s about 1 out of every 4 adults. It is more common as people grow older and is more common and more serious in African Americans.
What do the numbers mean?
Blood pressure measures the natural pressure created by blood pumping through your veins and arteries. It is read as two numbers, one over the other.
The top number, or systolic blood pressure, measures the blood pressure when the heart pumps. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, measures the blood pressure between heartbeats when the heart rests.
Hypertension is blood pressure that is over 140/90
Optimal blood pressure is under 120/80
Risk factors YOU can control
Nine out of every ten people who have hypertension don’t have a known cause for their condition.
A family history of hypertension is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure. But with or without a family history, you have a good chance of avoiding or controlling hypertension without drugs by:
- Keeping your weight under control
- Keeping physically fit
- Eating a healthy diet low in added sodium and rich in nutrients potassium, magnesium and calcium
- Limiting alcohol intake (no more than 2 mixed drinks or two 12 oz. cans of beer or two 6 oz. glasses of wine daily)
- Never smoking or quitting immediately
- Avoiding medications that might increase your blood pressure including decongestant nasal sprays and pain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
Therapeutic foods to bring your blood pressure down
- Eat more vitamin C-rich foods: citrus fruits, strawberries, red peppers, dark green leafy vegetables
- Eat more vitamin E-rich foods: almonds, hazelnuts, wheat germ, peanut butter
- Eat more magnesium-rich foods: tomatoes, beans, nuts & seeds, squash, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, wheat germ, halibut, swiss chard
- Eat more potassium-rich foods: grapefruit, grapes, tomatoes, beans, apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, dates, salt-water fish, lamb
- Eat more calcium-rich foods: yogurt, sardines, salmon (canned with bones), milk, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli
- Cook with less salt. Experiment with spices such as, parsley, basil, oregano, ginger, sesame, dill, cilantro, curry, pepper, and thyme to reduce the amount of salt used in cooking
- Cut back on common table salt including that in processed foods and in many drugs (check labels for soda, sodium, or salt). Avoid commercial sauces like soy or Worcestershire and commercial salad dressings (check labels for sodium content)
- When eating out, ask for your food cooked without added salt since you can’t control what kind and how much is used.
Physical activity can help reverse hypertension
Start slowly and build up gradually. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity 3 to 5 days per week.
Aerobic activity will strengthen your heart and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It will also help to control your weight. Try brisk walking, jogging, biking, hiking, group exercise classes (water aerobics, kick-boxing, judo), running stairs, rowing, and team sports (football, soccer).
Hypertension can lead to other serious health problems
Routinely monitoring your blood pressure is important.
Hypertension has been called a “silent killer” because it has no specific symptoms and it can lead to death.
People who have hypertension that is not treated with lifestyle modifications and medications (if necessary) are likely to experience one or several of the following conditions:
- Coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, or abnormal heart beat.
- Kidney failure
- Peripheral vascular disease, hardening and narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) that supply blood to the arms, legs, and other parts of the body
- Retinopathy, or damage to the tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the light-sensitive lining of the back of the eye
- And finally, stroke
Dr. Nicole Sundene
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