Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blood Pressure

We got a new machine installed at work (retail pharmacy) that takes blood pressure, BMI, measures body fat (which I know for a fact this is an incorrect reading), and checks your vision. My blood pressure has always been 120/80 for as long as I can remember, and my pulse has always been 80. I have been working out like crazy since joining a gym last week and eating TONS of veggies and healthy/clean foods for a few months now. I took my blood pressure the other day and I was so shocked by the results that instead of hitting print [to have proof of my record] I accidently hit 'next'; my blood pressure was 107/78 with a pulse of 75! Unfortunately, my excitement got the best of me and my blood pressure did raise a few points on my next test. bummer dude. But after a few more tests to get an average I did conclude that my average blood pressure has indeed dropped several points and I am no longer 120/80! This is such great news because 1) it's more motivation to keep up the fitness/clean eating and 2) heart disease and high blood pressure/cholesterol are prevalent on both sides of my family.

So why is it so important to have low blood pressure and a low resting pulse rate? You would be surprised at the amount of people that don't really know why, only that they should - because their doctors told them, because their pharmacist told them, because they have heard it all their lives. Maybe you are one of those people....

First off, the types of blood pressure should be well known, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number). Systolic pressure is the pressure it takes the heart to move your blood through your arteries and body; you want this number to be below 120. Diastolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries between pumps/at rest; you want this number to be below 80.

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Pressure at either end of the spectrum can obviously be dangerous, but what is most common is high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension can be passed down genetically without any relief besides medication or you can bring it on yourself (like diabetes types 1 & 2, but that's another topic). The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development, including:
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much salt in the diet
  • Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
  • Stress
  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • [source]

Working in a retail pharmacy for almost 8 years now has really allowed me to survey the public and their general health issues. Hypertension is avoidable for most of our patients who have it and it is also an unnecessary extra expense, some of the medications are not cheep and you are not usually on just one. High blood pressure is dangerous to your health, aside from itself, and it is estimated that many people have it without knowing!

Hypertension can: cause the blood vessels in the eyes to narrow or tear (causing vision impairments), make the muscles of the heart thicken (making it harder to pump blood therefor causing a heart attack), narrow or weaken the vessels in the kidneys (since kidneys filter, weakened vessels can lead to failure, dialysis, or transplants), be a leading factor in metabolic syndrome (high triglycerides, low HDL, increased waist circumference, and high insulin levels. Can lead to stroke, diabetes, or heart disease), and lastly can cause a weakened blood vessel in the brain to break which causes bleeding in the brain which is also known as having a stroke. [source]  

You can beat all this with good ol' fashioned diet and exercise! I know it's hard to believe, but sometimes you just gotta put in the hard work to get the results you want/need. The Harvard Heart Letter lists 10 ways to beat high blood pressure with food:


  • Eat more poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes (beans) and less red meat.
  • Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products instead of full-fat versions.
  • Turn to vegetables and fruits instead of sugary or salty snacks and desserts.
  • Select breads, pasta, and other carbohydrate-rich foods that are made from whole grains.
  • Eat fruit instead of drinking juice.
  • Use unsaturated fats like olive, canola, soybean, peanut, corn, or safflower oils instead of butter, coconut oil, or palm-kernel oil.
  • Rely on fresh or frozen foods instead of canned and processed foods.
  • Choose low-sodium foods whenever possible; use herbs, spices, vinegar, and other low-sodium flavorings instead of salt.
  • Don’t skip meals; try to eat one-third of your calories at breakfast. [source]

And some good new incase you may be feeling a little lazy, a study was done on fitness level v. hypertension; those who matched the American Heart Association’s recommendation of brisk walking for only 150 minutes a week—were significantly less likely to suffer their family’s fate. Exercise opens up your blood vessels, which keeps pressure in your veins and arteries at normal levels. [source].

 

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is critical for the prevention of HBP and an indispensable part of managing it. Think of these changes as a "lifestyle prescription" and make every effort to comply with them. Whether you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure , also called hypertension, or are concerned because you have some of the risk factors for the disease, understand this: while there is no cure, high blood pressure is manageable. [American Heart Association]

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