HYPERTENSION (HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE)
Hypertension is the state of prolonged high blood pressure and can lead to permanent damage to the arterial system.
Although genetics plays a role in developing high blood pressure, other major risk factors include being overweight or obese, diabetes, lack of exercise, high alcohol intake, and poor eating habits.
When checking your blood pressure, you will get two numbers. The top number is your systolic number, or the amount of pressure in your arteries during a heart beat –when blood is being pushed through your arteries. The bottom number is your diastolic number, or the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest between heart beats.
If either of these two numbers are consistently elevated above 140/90, then you may have high blood pressure and should consult with your physician regarding the matter. Since high blood pressure can cause permanent damage to arteries, just like atherosclerosis, it causes many of the same problems like stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and aortic aneurysm.
Think of a balloon. If you blow air into a balloon, it will grow and expand because of its elasticity. But if you blow too much air into the balloon, the pressure inside will be too high and will cause the balloon to break and explode. With arteries, the same physical concept occurs, but usually over a longer period of time. Because we are living organisms, your body has the ability to repair some of the damage that occurs in your arteries because of high pressure. But over time scare tissue will build up and these arteries will become more at risk of bursting. If your blood pressure remains high and your arteries are already damaged, it may not take much more for a weak part of the arterial wall to hemorrhage, allowing blood to escape and damage vital organs –including your heart and brain.
Depending on what your physician says, if you are diagnosed with hypertension, they may recommend certain lifestyle changes or medication. If you are overweight, even a 5-10 pound weight loss can often decrease your blood pressure throughout the day.
Evidence shows that maintaining a normal BMI (Body Mass Index) number (between 20 and 25), exercising for at least 30 minutes most days, and eating fruits & vegetables will improve your blood pressure and overall health. (10)
See the “DASH Diet” in STEP 3 for further dietary ideas to reduce blood pressure.
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