Hypertension, the Silent Killer––Mika Bradford

Hypertension, the Silent Killer

By Mika Bradford CN, CPhT, North Dallas LIVING WELL Magazine

How tense are you?

Are you one of the 55.1% of Americans who has undiagnosed or untreated hypertension? Hypertension is a condition where the pressure of the blood is raised above normal. Blood pressure varies and increases with age, and it can be affected by different lifestyles. Minor fluctuations in blood pressure generally do not pose a risk to one’s health, but continued high pressure can have serious consequences, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney damage. You can monitor your blood pressure and heart rate on a regular basis, keeping track of your numbers will assist your physician in making decisions about your health plan. A log or record of your blood pressure and heart rate provides a clearer picture and overview of your risk for hypertension.

Are you at risk?

Lifestyle factors play a primary role in hypertension. There has also been evidence that you can inherit the tendency to have hypertension from your parents. But, do you know what lifestyle choices can be avoided or limited to protect you from this condition? Keeping your weight under control, regular physical activity, eating healthy and nutritious foods, limiting alcoholic beverages to no more than two a day, not smoking, while also avoiding medications that can increase your blood pressure are just a few ways you can reduce your risk of hypertension. Hypertension is also more common in certain ethnic groups, including African-Americans and Asians, and in those countries with a high salt diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet plan is frequently suggested to be used as a dietary guide in making healthy food choices. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy. It also includes grains, especially whole grains; lean meats, fish and poultry; nuts and beans. It is high fiber and low to moderate in fat.

Important lifestyle factors that may cause hypertension include:

Coffee consumption

Alcohol intake

Lack of exercise

Stress

Smoking

 

Dietary factors that may lead to hypertension:

Obesity

High sodium-to-potassium ratio

Low fiber/high sugar diet

High-saturated fat & low-essential fatty acid intake

Diet low in calcium, magnesium and vitamin C

Medical conditions, which can cause hypertension, include kidney disease (narrowing of the renal artery), endocrine disease (problems of the adrenal glands which affect blood pressure), and atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) often referred to as a hardening of the arteries. An increase in blood pressure can occur at any time, and usually goes unnoticed until it is identified at a regular health check-up, or during the investigation of another condition. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.

In a head-to-head comparison, many non-drug therapies, such as diet, exercise and relaxation therapies have proven more effective in treating borderline to mild hypertension. Reducing weight, together with a change in diet and no smoking, can lower blood pressure and the risk of complications, thereby reducing or even avoiding the need for medication. If medication is prescribed by your physician it is important to take it as prescribed and to communicate with your physician if any side effects are experienced. A low sodium diet is often prescribed in conjunction with a high blood pressure medication. It is important that sodium is reduced but not completely removed from the diet. Feeling dizzy and light headed is one side effect that occurs quite often in the summer months or when doing strenuous physical activity that results in an increase in perspiration and sweating. In an attempt to stay hydrated, sodium levels can be diluted by drinking too much water, which can contribute to an electrolyte imbalance that leads to feeling dizzy and light headed. While hypertension may be referred to as the “Silent Killer,” you can look for the signs and recognize them in time to make the necessary changes in order to live a long and healthy life!

Mika Bradford is a certified nutritionist and pharmacy technician. Mika has spent over a decade working in the manufacturing, retail and the clinical application of nutrition supplements. She has worked closely with clients facing a wide range of health issues, including those with special needs and long-term health conditions. If you have questions for Mika, you may contact her at mbradford@doughertys.com or 817-705-7221.