High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is a measure of how much force your heart uses to push the blood around your arteries. It varies according to the activities you're performing and your emotional state, but blood pressure that is consistently higher than normal is referred to as hypertension, and is one of several risk factors that increase the likelihood you'll develop cardiovascular disease.

Symptoms

  • In most cases, high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms - that's why your doctor routinely takes your blood pressure during health checks
  • Your blood pressure gives your doctor an indication of how hard your heart needs to work to keep blood flowing and how well your arteries are functioning. Together with other factors (including your age, your body weight, your family history, your Cholesterol levels and whether you're a smoker), your blood pressure reading helps your doctor assess your Heart Health and estimate how likely you are to experience cardiovascular disease such as a heart attack or stroke
  • A blood pressure reading consists of two measurements: the systolic pressure (the force of the blood against the arteries as the heart contracts), and the diastolic pressure (the force as the heart relaxes). Ideally, your blood pressure should be lower than 120/80 (i.e. 120 mm Hg systolic, and 80 mm Hg diastolic). A reading higher than this is considered on the high end of normal, while a reading of 140/90 or above is classified as hypertension
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy can pose risks to mother and baby and needs close monitoring and professional treatment. If you are pregnant and hands or feet become swollen, ask your doctor to check your blood pressure

Causes

  • In the majority of cases, there is no identifiable medical cause of high blood pressure - the key contributing factors are hereditary issues and lifestyle choices. This type of high blood pressure is referred to as essential hypertension
  • For approximately 5% of patients, high blood pressure is a consequence of underlying health problems, most commonly kidney disease. This type of high blood pressure is referred to as secondary hypertension
  • Cholesterol levels are an important consideration in high blood pressure, and the two issues are commonly addressed simultaneously. High Cholesterol increases the risk of atherosclerosis (the accumulation of plaque in the arteries), which makes the arteries narrower and stiffer and therefore increases the amount of force the heart needs to use to circulate the blood. At the same time, the increased force of high blood pressure may accelerate the deposition of atherosclerotic plaque
  • Other factors that increase your risk of developing high blood pressure include:
  • Increasing age: This risk affects both men and women, but in women becomes more substantial after Menopause
  • High salt (sodium) consumption and (less frequently) high consumption of licorice
  • A family history of hypertension (i.e. your parents or grandparents had high blood pressure)
  • Weight problems
  • Diabetes or other Blood Sugar problems
  • Smoking
  • Some recreational drugs
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Stress
  • High blood pressure can also be an adverse effect of some prescribed medicines, including the oral contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy and some anti-inflammatory and steroidal drugs
  • Risk factors for developing pregnancy-induced hypertension include being overweight or having high blood pressure when you become pregnant, family history of high blood pressure and putting on too much weight during your pregnancy

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • If you are undergoing treatment for high blood pressure, do not take any nutritional or herbal supplements without prior consultation with your doctor. To do so may interfere with the efficacy or required dosage of your prescribed medication
  • Co-enzyme Q10 helps to maintain healthy functioning of the heart muscle, inhibits the oxidation of Cholesterol, and supports healthy blood pressure. Look for a supplement supplying 150 mg per day
  • In Western herbal medicine, hawthorn has traditionally been regarded as a heart tonic. It assists in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and overall Heart Health , and also has antioxidant properties, which may help to explain its benefits for Cholesterol problems
  • Resveratrol may support the maintenance of healthy blood pressure by exerting antioxidant effects on the blood vessels and helping to maintain their tone. It may also help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), inhibit clot formation, and protect Cholesterol molecules from Free Radical Damage
  • Olive leaf also has antioxidant effects in the cardiovascular system, and may help manage blood pressure and general Heart Health Garlic has tonic actions on the cardiovascular system, and may help to maintain both healthy blood pressure and healthy Cholesterol levels. Look for a product containing the equivalent of 3 g of fresh garlic bulb. Parsley is sometimes taken at the same time to reduce the odour of garlic
  • Magnesium plays a number of roles in the cardiovascular system, including helping to maintain the ability of the blood vessels to contract and dilate (open). It works closely with potassium to help maintain healthy blood pressure, and also supports the body's ability to deal with Stress. Some prescribed blood pressure medicines may deplete the body's magnesium stores
  • Taking omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or salmon oil helps to maintain heart and blood vessel function, healthy triglyceride levels and healthy blood pressure. Be sure to choose a formula that is tested for purity so that you're not consuming excessive quantities of PCBs, mercury or lead
  • High blood levels of a compound called homocysteine increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Taking folic acid, especially in combination with vitamins B6 and B12 may help to regulate homocysteine levels and assist in the maintenance of healthy cardiovascular function

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice. Note that changing your diet, exercise, or health supplements may affect the efficacy and required dose of your prescribed blood pressure medication
  • Decreasing salt (sodium) consumption and simultaneously increasing potassium intake can help to manage many instances of high blood pressure. To reduce salt, avoid take-away and pre-packaged foods, (which are the source of most of the salt in our diets), and replace table salt with herbs and spices. Increase potassium by consuming more fresh fruit and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables, celery, garlic and onion are beneficial inclusions in your diet
  • Avoid saturated fats (animal products) and instead choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. In particular, try to eat several serves of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or sardines) every week to maintain high levels of omega-3 fats
  • Avoid refined sugar and flour, and instead choose wholegrain cereals and breads, taking care to select low-salt options
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially in large quantities, as these may contribute to high blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. After seeking your doctor's approval, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most or all days of the week. A brisk walk is a great start, and will help to manage your blood pressure, Cholesterolbody weight and Blood Sugar levels, and consequently support overall cardiovascular health
  • Don't smoke - it promotes Free Radical Damage, harms the blood vessels, and increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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