By Allan Bucka Jones
PRIDE Health Columnist
It looks like I can never write enough about high blood pressure, because every time I think I may be pushing the topic too much, I meet someone with high blood pressure who does not take it seriously. Please remember, high blood pressure is no joking matter. It is dangerous. It can kill.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, means there is too much pressure in your blood vessels. This can damage your blood vessels and cause health problems. Anyone can develop high blood pressure, but it becomes more common as you get older.
Your heart pumps blood. Blood pressure is the force of blood against your blood vessels as it circulates. This force is necessary to make the blood flow, delivering nutrients and oxygen throughout your body.
You can have high blood pressure and not know. It is a silent killer. Without treatment, high blood pressure can cause death. Persistent high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and arterial aneurysm, diabetes, eye disease and is the leading cause of chronic kidney failure, causing many members of our community to be on dialysis.
High blood pressure is a medical condition in which the blood pressure is chronically elevated. In Canada there are approximately 7.4 million Canadians living with high blood pressure, but it is estimated that more than 2 million Canadians, are not even aware of that they have high blood pressure.
Your family doctor will tell you what blood pressure readings are appropriate for you, based on your medical condition. The government of Canada does not collect health data by race or ethnicity, but it is well established that Black Canadians with high blood pressure have a four times greater risk of developing end stage kidney disease than the general population.
There are a number of established risk factors that should increase our focus on ways to minimize the impact of high blood pressure.
FAMILY HISTORY – If your parents or close blood relatives have had high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop it, too. You might also pass that risk factor on to your children. That is why it is important for children as well as adults to have regular blood pressure checks. You cannot control heredity, but you can take steps to live a healthy life and lower your other risk factors. Lifestyle choices have allowed many people with a strong family history of high blood pressure, to avoid it themselves.
GETTING OLDER – As we age, we develop a higher risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Blood vessels lose flexibility with age which can contribute to increasing pressure throughout the system.
GENDER – Up to age 45, a higher percentage of men than women have high blood pressure. After that it has equal distribution between men and women, until after age 64, when a much higher percentage of women have high blood pressure than men.
LACK OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – An inactive lifestyle increases the chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, blood vessel disease and stroke. Inactivity also makes it easier to become overweight or obese. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity five times each week. Walking is a good activity.
POOR DIET – A diet with too much salt is bad for you…cut the salt. Also, a diet that is high in calories, fats and sugars and low in essential nutrients, contributes directly to poor health as well as to obesity.
OVERWEIGHT & OBESITY – If you are overweight, it increases your chances of developing high blood pressure. Losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds (4.5kg to 9kg) can help lower your blood pressure and your heart disease risk.
TOO MUCH ALCOHOL – Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats.
STRESS – A stressful situation can temporarily increase your blood pressure. Avoid stress.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and placed on medications or herbs, ensure that the prescribed medicine or herbal supplement is taken as recommended by your medical doctor or naturopath. Do not discontinue your treatment, unless you are advised to do so.
If you are using natural remedies, let your family doctor know, so they can be aware of any negative or positive interactions that may develop….High blood pressure is silent, it is dangerous and certainly is no joking matter, because it can kill you.