February is Heart Health month. And for #HealthTalkThursday this month, we will be talking about a medical condition that is often referred to as THE SILENT KILLER.
Ever heard stories about seemingly healthy people that suddenly have a stroke or heart attack? Or maybe you know someone personally that has experienced this. One minute they look healthy and full of life, and the next minute, they are dead or suffering from serious health and mobility deficits. Most times, the culprit is HYPERTENSION, also known as HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
These stories are common because a person can have high blood pressure for so many years without any significant signs or symptoms.
So what exactly does it mean to have high blood pressure or hypertension?
Imagine your body is a house, your heart is the pump (pumping machine) and your blood vessels are the pipes. High blood pressure occurs when the pressure the pump (your heart) uses to pump blood into the pipes is very high.
So basically your blood pressure measures the force your heart uses to pump blood through your arteries.
Medically, a person is said to have high blood pressure when their blood pressure reading is consistently greater than 120/80mmhg. Blood pressure readings vary from person to person though so it is important you know what your personal baseline blood pressure is.
But what do the numbers of a blood pressure reading mean?
The top number is called the Systolic pressure. It is a measure of the pressure in your arteries (pipes) when your heart beats.
The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure and it measures the pressure in your arteries (pipes) between beats i.e when your heart is resting.
What exactly causes high blood pressure?
In most cases, doctors can’t point to an exact cause but there are risk factors that increase a person’s chances of having high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors include:
1. Age- The older you are, the higher your chances of having high blood pressure
2. Being obese/overweight
3. Smoking or tobacco use
4. Drinking too much alcohol
5. Unhealthy diet i.e too much sodium, cholesterol or fat in your diet
6. Race: High blood pressure is more common in people of African descent
7. Genetics: If you have a family member that suffers or suffered from high blood pressure, your risk is greater
8. Chronic conditions: Some chronic conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea, chronic kidney disease can increase your risk
9. Not being physically active
What are some of the complications of High blood pressure?
Think of it this way; If the pumping machine continues to pump to the pipes at a very high pressure, the walls of the pipe will eventually start to damage (the arteries), the pump will soon start to get tired and wear out (the heart), and the other taps in your house might eventually get damaged if they cant withstand the pressure (the organs in your body).
Some of the potential complications of high blood pressure include:
1. Heart attack
2. Stroke (I will be talking more about this on another #HealthTalkThursday post)
3. Heart Failure
4. Aneurysms: This is when the walls of your arteries become weak and bulge. Ruptured aneurysms can be life threatening.
5. Kidney damage
6. Retina damage leading to vision problems
7. Vascular dementia (memory issues leading to chronic memory pronlems)
8. Peripheral Vascular and arterial diseases (fancy name for problem with the vessels in your limbs
Note: Some tell tale signs of very high blood pressure include headaches, dizziness, blurry vision, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nose bleeds… If you are having these symptoms regularly, so see a Medical Doctor as soon as possible
Now that you know what it is, what can you do about it?
- Live a healthy lifestyle: This includes:
- Eating a healthy diet: Reduce your intake of salt and salt rich foods. Reduce sodium in your diet (sodium rich foods include most canned foods, bacon, ham, sausages, potato chips etc.), eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet. Click HERE for information on the DASH diet (DASH stands for dietary approaches to stopping hypertension)
- Being more physically active: Incorporate exercise to your routine, take walks, jog/run if you can tolerate, engage in sporting activities that you enjoy. Just don’t live a sedentary lifestyle
- Drink less alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Stress management: Manage stress, get enough rest.
- Go for regular medical check ups and screening: Check your blood pressure often. Go to the Doctor for a routine check up at least once a year.
- Medication compliance: If eventually your doctor starts you on blood pressure medications, ensure you take them as directed. Don’t skip or miss doses. Don’t stop taking them because you think you feel better. Remember Hypertension is a silent killer so you might think you are better when you are actually not. Most blood pressure medications are a lifetime regimen.
There you have it! Basic information about Hypertension.
But before you go, I have some questions for you
1. When last did you check your blood pressure?
2. Do you know what your baseline (normal) blood pressure is?
3. How often do you check your blood pressure?
If your answers to those questions are not good enough, then do better.
The #HealthTalkThursday challenge for this month is for you to go to a doctor’s office, or even pharmacy near you to get your blood pressure checked.
If you are older, aim to check your blood pressure at least once a year. Check more frequently if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension.
Thank you for reading☺☺.
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