High Blood Pressure – how it can kill you…
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (HTN) is a condition shared by billions people worldwide and that can have devastating impact on millions.
The word “hyper” means “ too much” and the word “tension” means pressure; hence, hypertension is too much pressure in the arteries, the biological “tubes” that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body.
Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and many other conditions.
Since your heart must pump blood into your arteries, this creates a normal pressure in the arteries known as your blood pressure. HIGH blood pressure, or hypertension/HTN, can be due to many causes, but one of the most common causes is “hardening of the arteries”.
A normal (young) artery is like a flexible rubber tube, which can expand and compress as needed to allow the flow of blood to different parts of the body, like the brain, heart, and kidneys.
When these flexible “rubber” tubes get harder and harder with age, possibly due to cholesterol build up and scar tissue, the walls of these arteries cease to expand like they should, leading to increased pressure of the blood flowing within them. That is, the arterial walls become rigid (like an old lead pipe) instead of flexible (like soft rubber). This “hardening of the arteries” is called “atherosclerosis”.
High blood pressure becomes a problem for the heart when it must work harder to pump blood down these old rigid pipes rather than through the young flexible rubber tubes that they once were.
And when the heart, which is basically a pump, must work harder, the “pump” can fail, causing a heart attack and ultimately to failure of the pump itself, commonly called “congestive heart failure” or CHF.
When the heart tries to pump blood to the hardened arteries leading to the brain, this can cause a stroke (death of brain tissue), either by reduction of blood flow to the brain or by actual bleeding into the brain – which are the most common 2 causes of stroke. is basically death of brain cells.
Unfortunately, untreated hypertension does not usually cause symptoms as it is progressing, until it is, well, too late – that is, when a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and/or kidney failure have already occurred. At that point, most of the damage is already done and cannot be completely reversed.
Hence, it is important to monitor your blood pressure, especially as you get older, to detect any “HIGH” blood pressure early on and to have this corrected BEFORE heart, brain, or kidney problems occur. In other words, it is much harder to fix the engine after it has already broken down – rather, it is easier to MAINTAIN it by PREVENTING it from breaking down in the first place. This is health maintenance!
The best ways to help control hypertension are to: (1) avoid salt, (2) eat a healthy diet, (3) control your weight, and (4) exercise – all to help keep your arteries healthy and flexible. You can’t control your genetics (which may affect the rate of hardening of your arteries), but you CAN control these four things in your life.
What to do if you already have high blood pressure
If you have already developed hypertension, you should still make these 4 lifestyle changes but you may also need treatment with medication. There are many different “anti-hypertensive” medications. The major classes of the anti-hypertensive medicines work in different ways, but they all ultimately work to reduce the excessive/high blood pressure in your arteries. Thus, these medicines can lead to a longer, healthier life than if not taken and allowing the hypertension to go uncontrolled.
The foregoing information has to do with most common cause of hypertension, known as primary hypertension or essential hypertension. Another less common type of hypertension is known as secondary hypertension, that is, high blood pressure caused by disease of a system of the body not having to do with the heart or kidneys directly, such as a kidney, thyroid, or adrenal gland disorder OR due to a medication, such as some decongestants and diet pills. Caffeine and salt also raise blood pressure and can make primary/essential or secondary hypertension worse.
Psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety, both of which can increase stress, can also worsen hypertension. In this hectic day and age, it’s not as easy to reduce stress as it is to reduce salt intake, but lifestyle changes like learning how to meditate, doing yoga, getting enough rest, and again – exercising routinely, can all reduce stress.
It’s important to remember that the mind and body are connected, so a “healthy mind” will promote a healthy body, and therefore help control high blood pressure!
Dr. S. John Guha
A physician at www.GuhaMD.com, can help you with more detailed advice on how to control hypertension and promote your health.