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You may have one of the most serious medical problems around and not even know it. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a grave medical condition that can cause stroke, heart attacks, and kidney failure and death. However, since hypertension has few visible symptoms, many times it goes undiagnosed. A little information goes a long way in preventing and treating this silent disease.
Understanding The Numbers
Some patients don't realize that they have high blood pressure—until it's too late. If you see your doctor regularly, you have probably had your blood pressure taken as part of a check up, and have discussed whether your it is at a n acceptable level. The optimal blood pressure for a healthy adult measures 120/80, and 140/90 is considered high blood pressure. The top number here represents your systolic blood pressure, a measure of the pressure inside your arteries during a heartbeat. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, a measure of the pressure inside the arteries between beats. Hypertension can develop slowly over the years partly because your arteries lose their elasticity. Age, weight, stress and lifestyle changes can all influence your blood pressure, so it is important to have it checked on a regular basis.
Hypertension is sometimes called a silent killer because patients have mild symptoms if they have any at all. Mild to severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, nosebleeds and blurred vision can indicate that your blood pressure has spiked. If you suffer any of these symptoms, see your health care provider immediately.
Many influences help determine your risk of hypertension. If others in your family have high blood pressure, you are likely to inherit it. If you are overweight, eat too much salt, lead a stressful life, smoke or enjoy more than two drinks daily, you are at a higher risk. People of African American descent are more likely than others to have high blood pressure. Some medications, such as birth control pills, and cold and migraine medicines also can cause high blood pressure.
Several medications can be prescribed to treat hypertension, but may have side effects such as headaches, fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, and loss of appetite, dizziness and heart palpitations. Food supplements from your pantry, such as cod-liver oil, cocoa, garlic and calcium, are also said to help lower blood pressure.
Some cases of hypertension can be controlled with a change in lifestyle and a combination of exercise and diet. Healthy eating is key and meals that are low in sodium and high in fiber can help bring your blood pressure down. Load your plate with fruits and vegetables, especially those high in potassium. Stay away from processed foods that contain excess sodium and don't add salt to your meals at home. Limit the cocktails since alcohol can contribute to higher blood pressure. An exercise routine of 30 minutes or more a day can help reduce your weight and your blood pressure. If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit, as tobacco use hardens the arteries. Finally, get plenty of rest, and use deep breathing or meditation to help reduce stress.