Sunil (name changed) is a fitness freak, loves gymming, works hard, parties harder. He runs the marathon every year and prepares months in advance for it. This year too, he is determined to clock in his best.
The big day arrives. The race starts, Sunil takes off, keeping a steady pace. He is doing well, but starts feeling uneasy, he grabs a bottle of water, gulps it down and carries on running. However, soon he collapses to the ground and before anyone can realise, dies.
The autopsy puts the probable cause as stroke due to high blood pressure.
Sunil worked at the headquarters of an MNC. Doing extremely well, he was soon to be promoted to that corner office. The blue-eyed boy of the bosses. Always willing to go that extra mile, work on new projects, brainstorm on presentations and fill in for team mates.
Yet, at the marathon that day, a young life, full of hopes and dreams, was cut short suddenly and so cruelly. The silent killer, high blood pressure, had claimed yet another victim.
Shocking right? Even more so when you know his age…just 32 years.
Were you of the opinion that hypertension affects only the elderly? That only grandfathers, and sometimes grandmothers, suffered from it?
Well, that is no longer true. High blood pressure is stealthily creeping up on much younger individuals, sometimes as early as late twenties, and more regularly in the forties.
WHAT IS NORMAL BLOOD PRESSURE RANGE
Blood pressure is the force at which the heart pumps blood around your body and is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). It is recorded as 2 figures:
- systolic pressure – the pressure when your heart pushes blood out
- diastolic pressure – the pressure when your heart rests between beats
For example, if your blood pressure is 130/80 mmHg, it shows a systolic pressure of 130 mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 80 mmHg.
As a general guide:
- normal blood pressure is between 120/80mmHg and 90/60mmHg
- high blood pressure is considered to be 130/90mmHg or higher
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
TYPES OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
There are two main types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary high blood pressure.
- Primary, or essential, is the most common, which develops over time. There are several probable causes of this
- Secondary is caused by another underlying medical condition like diabetes or use of certain medicines
Both require immediate and appropriate attention
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SYMPTOMS
Hypertension most commonly has no symptoms, therefore it is known as the silent killer. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to various serious ailments like cardiac and kidney disease.
Sometimes, it can lead to a fatal heart attack like in the case of Sunil
Symptoms, when they occur, are one or more of the following:
Confusion and dizziness
Pain in chest
Blood in urine
If you notice any of the above symptoms, no more time should be wasted in seeing a doctor. A diagnosis is usually made after a series of BP readings spread over days and different times of the day.
CAUSES OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High fat diet
Lack of exercise
Medications or underlying disease (secondary hypertension)
HOW TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE
A diagnosis of hypertension will surely mean being prescribed a long list of medications and advised a drastic change in lifestyle.
This change in lifestyle, mostly dietary choices, is what I would like to elaborate upon, because almost always hypertension is a direct cause of wrong habits.
Start consuming a healthy, heart-friendly diet
A heart-healthy diet includes:
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains and legumes
Increase physical activity
Other than helping you shed weight, exercise can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure naturally, and strengthen your cardiovascular system
Aim to get about 30 minutes five times a week that is around 150 minutes per week
Shed excess weight
Watch the blood pressure return to normal as you shed your excess kilos. This can be done naturally by consuming the right kind of foods, (plant based) and as many calories as are required. Not more.
Break the stress-hypertension-stress chain. Remove the cause of anxiety and worry. Eliminate stress of any kind—physical or mental. You can adopt any of the following
- meditation and/or deep breathing
Definitely reduce tobacco and alcohol.
If you’re a smoker, try to quit. Regular consumption of alcohol is not at all advisable. Seek help if you cannot do it on your own.
As is commonly known, it is not how long you sleep, it is how well you sleep. Make sure to get undisturbed, deep sleep for as many hours as required by your body. Most people require anywhere in the 7-8 hours range. Trying to make up over the weekends will not help.
WHAT TO EAT WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
What you eat will largely determine whether you can overcome blood pressure problem or continue to be prone to it
Eat more plants
A diet rich in animal products like dairy, meat, fish and eggs is full of saturated and trans fat, with absolutely no fibre.
Whole plant foods have none of the harmful ingredients and all of the healthy stuff, including fibre.
Avoid refined and processed products.
Reduce dietary sodium
Keep an eye on your salt intake. Avoid packaged foods rich in salts and other preservatives.
Say no to sugary and fatty foods
Food and drinks laden with sugar are full of empty calories. Fatty foods just line the blood vessels with fat, leading to high BP
Ensure you eat when hungry, but not at unearthly times. People who are disciplined in their eating habits are less prone to hypertension.
Not for nothing do they say prevention is better than cure. High blood pressure can be not only reversed but also prevented. That too with minimum use of medications.
Would you like to escape its clutches? Do not wait for high BP symptoms, because they may never be apparent. The time to act is now. Do consider changing your lifestyle, including most importantly what goes into your body.