What is High Blood Pressure or Hypertension?
Blood pressure is the pressure that blood exerts on the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood around the body. Normal blood pressure is usually 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is the diagnosis of pressure greater than, or equal to, systolic 140 mmHg and, or the diastolic pressure is greater than, or equal to 90 mmHg for adults to 65 years.
What causes high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is treated as a disease. However, rather than a disease, it is your body’s response to blood vessels affected by metabolic stresses, inflammation, and insulin resistance that is occurring. Over time vascular changes can cause thickening of blood vessel walls, and this prevents them from being able to dilate and contract correctly. More likely, persistent high blood pressure is a consequence of structural changes and stiffening of the blood vessels from prolonged vascular inflammation.
Why is high blood pressure bad?
High blood pressure thought to contribute to 66% of strokes and 50% of heart attacks. Hypertension can narrow and thicken the blood vessels of the kidneys, causing impaired kidney function. Impaired vision can result from uncontrolled high blood pressure as it can cause blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, causing blurred or impaired vision and, or blindness.
How to lower blood pressure?
Treatment options to lower blood pressure include diet, nutrition therapy, lifestyle changes, and medications. Diet and lifestyle work by addressing the drivers or causes of high blood pressure. Medication helps to control or lower blood pressure but does not work directly on the underlying causes.
Dietary components to help you lower blood pressure
- The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The DASH diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products with reduced amounts of meats, saturated fats and sodium.
- Tree nuts: have antioxidant activity, to reduce inflammation, improve the elasticity and reduce the stiffness of the blood vessel walls; and in enhancing glucose use.
- Dietary fibre has blood pressure lowering effects attributed to a variety of factors, including improved vasodilation (increased nitric oxide release), and improvement in blood vessel elasticity; inhibiting sodium absorption; and improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
- Dietary nitrate from vegetables can reduce blood pressure. An increase of just two serving per day of vegetables, high in nitrates such as green leafy vegetable or beetroot can reduce systolic blood pressure.
- Vitamins and minerals can have positive actions on blood pressure regulation that are not understood based on their conventionally recognised ‘vitamin function’. Of importance to lowering blood pressure are vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E, and beta-carotene.
- Improving the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet has been shown to lower blood pressure. The mechanism is from a reduction in the release of inflammatory molecules.
- High sodium intakes from salt seem to reduce the amount of the molecules (nitric oxide) released in the blood vessels walls, which are essential for blood vessels elasticity. Reductions in elasticity increase pressure on the blood vessels walls.
Medications for lowering cholesterol
There are several effective medications for controlling hypertension. However, medications do not address the drivers or underlying causes of increased blood pressure. The underlying drivers for high cholesterol need to found, or overtime more damage to the blood vessels are likely to occur and more and more medications will be required to control blood pressure. As with all medicines, there are potential side effects, and with additional medicines, these are additive.
Control your blood pressure now
Taking control of your blood pressure can present some lifestyle challenges. The first step is to identify the imbalances in your lifestyle. Is it the wrong diet, not enough physical activity, lack of coping skills for stress and emotions, or a combination of these? If you would like a personalised dietary and lifestyle plan or more information about lowering your blood pressure, please reach out. We are here to support you in making the changes you want.