ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW TO STAY SAFE
Life is what makes everyone present on the earth. What connotes life in a man is blood and his ability to breathe. Blood is moved around the entire body at a regulated pressure which is maintained within a narrow range. When blood pressure is raised above the ideal and recommended set point, there is danger. The point where blood pressure is raised higher than normal for a long period of time every day, is tagged as “hypertension” and the patient is said to be hypertensive (suffering from high blood pressure).
When this happens, the heart will work extremely hard to pump blood to all other parts of the body. This can also cause the wall of the artery (the blood vessel through which blood passes through) to become hard and burst or rupture if the blood pressure remains uncontrolled. This is dangerous to our health as high blood pressure puts one at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke and kidney diseases.
What should my blood pressure reading be?
Normal blood pressure should be below 120/80 mmHg at most (can vary with age).
A person is considered pre-hypertensive when their blood pressure reading is continuously between 121/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg. This means you have not entered the hypertensive level, but this is still a danger zone.
140/90 mmHg or a higher blood pressure reading is extremely dangerous. Try not to be in this range.
Causes of Hypertension
There are several factors that cause high blood pressure; some you cannot control and some you can control.
The ones you cannot control are:
- Family history: if a parent or grandparent has the disease, there is an increased chance that the children too may get it if they do not make changes in their lifestyle or monitor their health. (See discussions below)
- Age: high blood pressure used to be more prominent in older people; nowadays many people are in the prehypertension zone or have hypertension without knowing.
The factors you can control include:
- Diet: The food we eat is a major player on the way our body functions. High sodium, high fat food has been identified to cause prehypertension and hypertension. A reduction in salt intake or addition of salt to cook food; and a lower saturated fat content will go a long way in helping us.
- Tobacco and alcohol: smoking and drinking alcohol are major factors which increase the risk of developing very high blood pressure.
- Diabetes: a person who is diabetic can also be at risk of hypertension.
- Sedentary lifestyle: not being active all day, every day can also increase one’s chances of developing hypertension.
How is blood pressure maintained within a normal range?
It has proven repeatedly that you do not have to die from hypertension. You can always reverse and correct high blood pressure. Here are some useful tips to help everyone to maintain their blood pressure within a healthy range:
- Have a healthy diet
Clearly, our dietary choices and meal options can place us at a higher risk of hypertension. To get rid of high blood pressure, you will need to make correct healthy food choices.
If you are prehypertensive or hypertensive, you should eat more whole food from plant origins and little or no food that is packaged or processed. Eat healthy portions, have more fresh plant food which comprises of:
Whole grains and cereals for example: oats, rice, wheat, sorghum, millet, corn, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Legumes such as beans, green peas, soybeans, kidney beans, dhal, chickpeas and fava beans.
Fruits including oranges, apples, banana, coconut water, and pineapples, are all locally available to you.
Vegetables and herbs: potatoes, carrots, beetroot, cucumber, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, cloves, and green leafy vegetables.
Nuts and seeds: sesame seeds, walnuts, groundnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds just to name a few.
All of these should be used to replace your heavily processed foods and fast foods. Replace cornflakes, custard with whole corn, baked beans with freshly made beans, packed fruit juices with the whole fruits themselves.
Choose Hibiscus tea (popularly known as zobo) which is a good drink to help reduce blood pressure. Cooking with herbs and fruits like ginger and pineapple also raise antioxidant levels and helps to strengthen the immune system in wading off diseases. You can have them hot as tea or as a refreshing cold drink.
- Cut out sodium-rich and animal foods
Sodium is the major contributing factor to hypertension. Sodium is found in cooking/ table salt, sea salt, as preservatives in processed foods such as instant noodles. They are responsible for raising the sodium levels in blood after they are consumed, and the body will be overworking to return it back to the normal range. A sustained high sodium level can lead to an increase in blood pressure. Excess consumption of red meat and animal products are a contributory factor to developing hypertension. They contain a high saturated fat content which can build up in blood vessel causing them to become narrow, reducing or restricting blood flow and increasing blood pressure. Eventually these blood vessels can become blocked and lead to the development of other life threaten conditions.
- Exercising regularly
Physical activity is for everyone regardless of being plagued with hypertension or not. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of having high blood pressure. Hence, being physically active in sports, exercise, home chores, walking and cycling for instance, will help you reverse from and stay clear of high blood pressure thus reduce the risk of developing hypertension.
- Keep a healthy weight
Ensure you have an optimally healthy range of weight according to your height. Furthermore make sure you do not have a waistline measurement that is above 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. Waistline is measured around the navel region.
- Take medications as prescribed by your Physician.
If you are found to be hypertensive or prehypertensive, do not take any medication indiscriminately just because it was marketed to you; talk to your licensed doctor first before you take any medication.
Ensure that you do not try to want to discontinue a medication until you are certified to do so by your doctor. Follow every instruction in regards to your medication till you are asked to discontinue.
Having this understanding on what hypertension is and how to deal with it is essential. It also important that you adhere to the advice given by professionally trained medical or healthcare practitioners (Doctors, GPs, and Pharmacists). More importantly visit a hospital and work with your healthcare practitioners to help you get back to a normal blood pressure range.
The medical team would recommend you check your blood pressure reading at least twice or more in a year at intervals. This will help you inform and guide you on what to do always.