High blood pressure is a chronic health problem faced by millions of people across the world. About half of the adults in the US suffer from hypertension, but only 1 in every four individuals have it under control. Why is it that this noncommunicable disease has prevailed for so long, yet it is far from being called under-control?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is when the blood gushing through your blood vessels exerts relatively high pressure on their walls when moving to and from the heart. There are numerous reasons behind high blood pressure, like stress, increased salt consumption, alcohol, smoking, intoxicants, and junk food.
Blood pressure is measured in mmHg, i.e., millimeter of mercury, and involves two numbers, the systolic pressure, and the diastolic pressure. The normal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80 mmHg.
120 is the systolic blood pressure, which is measured as the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of blood vessels when it is pumped from the heart to other parts of the body, while 80 is the diastolic blood pressure, which is measured in between heartbeats when the heart is at rest.
High blood pressure is when the blood pressure exceeds 120/80 mmHg, and hypertension is when it hits 140/90 mmHg.
The causes of hypertension (high blood pressure) include high salt consumption, being overweight, deprived of sleep, tachycardia (fast heart rate), alcohol, caffeine, intoxicants, smoking, age, and an inactive lifestyle.
The symptoms of high blood pressure include severe headaches, nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, fatigue, chest pain, and blood in the urine. Untreated and prolonged high blood pressure may lead to chronic illnesses, including heart diseases like heart attack, heart failure, stroke, brain problems, and kidney failure.
Similar to hypertension (high blood pressure), hypotension (low blood pressure) is also caused by a variation in the pressure exerted by the blood on the blood vessels. Usually, blood pressure lower than 120/80 mmHg is considered low bp, but hypotension is when the blood pressure drops lower than 90/60 mmHg.
Blood pressure needs attention when it drops abnormally low, which may show symptoms like dizziness, fainting, nausea, and fatigue. In some cases, it may also cause vertigo. Hypotension does not necessarily need to be treated, and for most people, it is normal to them.
Knowing the ground reality of noncommunicable diseases is critical, so here are a few myths we will debunk about blood pressure problems.
Myth1: High blood pressure is when a person has 140/90 mmHg or more blood pressure.
Fact: High blood pressure is when the blood pressure is 130/80, i.e., constantly over the standard 120/80 mmHg, accompanied by a history of heart diseases.
Myth2: High blood pressure is very common, but it isn't serious today.
Fact: Even though high blood pressure is common today due to our lifestyles, it is a severe issue. In 2020, about 670,000 deaths in the US accounted for high blood pressure as a primary or a contributing cause.
Myth3: Having a family history of blood pressure problems, there is very little we can do about it.
Fact: A healthy lifestyle can overtake a family history of blood pressure problems. Eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and controlling junk food can go a long way in battling high blood pressure.
Myth4: As long as we don't consume salt, we are safe.
Fact: Salt isn't the only factor responsible for high blood pressure. On top of that, reducing only direct salt consumption won't help since many processed and fast food contain a considerable amount of salt.
Myth5: Men are more prone to high blood pressure.
Fact: Men are more prone to high blood pressure, but only before 50. After menopause, women are relatively more prone to developing high blood pressure and other heart problems.
Lifestyle is the key!
Having a healthy lifestyle plays a critical role in controlling blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes daily physical activities, proper nutrition intake, and adequate sleep to ensure the body gets good rest. People with high BMI are at a higher risk of blood pressure and heart problems, so reducing weight may decrease the chances of developing high blood pressure.
Including other activities like yoga and meditation in your daily routine will help reduce stress levels, enhance oxygen levels in the body and provide other health benefits like reduced tachycardia (fast heart rate) and better blood circulation.
Reduce processed foods
Processed foods are not limited to canned food products and packed food items; they also include food like burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, subs, and other fast food available in restaurant chains.
Consuming processed food causes a high intake of sugars, salt, and saturated fats, which significantly increases the chances of hypertension (high blood pressure). Studies prove a direct relationship between high blood pressure and high salt consumption.
Limiting refined carbs helps
Refined carbohydrates refer to refined sugars and flour used in various FMCG products worldwide. Most popular food items like pastries, pasta, doughs, bread, and waffles, among other food products, contain high levels of refined carbs.
Refined carbs are associated with the global obesity problem faced by a large proportion of the population. These carbs have fewer nutrients like minerals, vitamins, and fibers and are often called 'empty' calories. Refined carbs have a high glycemic index, i.e. they shoot the blood sugar level once consumed, increasing insulin levels as well.
Alcohol and smoking are short-term pleasures
Alcohol is widely known to increase blood pressure significantly. Moderate consumption of red wine has some health benefits, but excessive consumption can lead to increased blood pressure, even in healthy individuals.
Smoking can lead to various diseases, from inflammation to organ damage. Like alcohol, smoking can also cause primary hypertension, drastically increasing blood pressure. Smoking and alcohol are highly addictive, and regular consumption habits may lead to serious health issues. Check out our blog on developing habits and how you can escape the vicious cycle of bad habits. (link to the blog on behavioral changes)
It is essential to reduce blood pressure and incorporate a healthy lifestyle. However, it is equally important to monitor your blood pressure frequently to ensure its optimum level. It is essential as, in most cases, high blood pressure does not accompany symptoms, and it is almost impossible to know whether or not you have high blood pressure.
Along with the five solutions described above, it is vital to get a health check-up from a physician and continue the prescribed medications if needed. Proper administration of medicine and prescribed drugs on time is essential. (link to the blog on patience adherence)
Coherence solves the low drug compliance crisis by helping individuals administer their medicines on time. We provide medicine dispensers to ensure the timely consumption of medicines, among other healthcare solutions.