– Hi Doc. It’s me again; you’re going to think I’m a hypochondriac…
– Hi Pascal, why would I say that?
– Well, my dad has a blood pressure monitor. Sandy and I measured and compared our values. She was fine, but in my case, the device read 149 / 96. My dad told me I had high blood pressure and should see my doctor.
– Well, it’s good to be aware of these numbers and analyze them. Unfortunately, sometimes these numbers reflect a worrying reality. Most often, people don’t even realize they’re ill! Blood pressure is a silent serial killer.
– Will I die from this, doc?
– Pascal, if you want to reduce the risk of dying, quit smoking…
– You really kicked my ass there, doc!!
– Yes, and you know it’s true. Well, let’s see what we’re going to do…
As I told you before, I make a point of kicking Pascal’s ass so that one day he will quit smoking. But today, the situation is even more precarious. First, tobacco and now the possible high blood pressure is setting in. These factors may trigger a succession of possible harmful events! But let’s start with the beginning.
What is HTA
High blood pressure is the pressure exerted by blood on the artery walls. It is measured in
millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) by a tensiometer device. Two values characterize it:
- A high value is measured when the heart contracts. This phase of the heartbeat is called systole. During this stage, the heart propels blood to your organs. The blood pressure value measured during this phase is called systolic blood pressure.
- A low value is measured when the heart relaxes. This phase of the heartbeat is called diastole. During this stage, the heart fills with blood from the organs. The blood pressure value measured during this phase is called diastolic blood pressure.
You are considered to have arterial hypertension when one of these values (or both) exceeds the limits considered normal:
- 140 millimeters of mercury for systolic blood pressure
- 90 millimeters of mercury for diastolic blood pressure
Beyond this strictly “mathematical” definition, some symptoms are likely to suggest hypertension (beware of certainties before consulting your GP, though). Here’s the list:
- Headaches: Helmet headaches that feel like pressure surrounding your head, most often felt during the morning.
- Palpitations: Feeling your heart fluttering inside your chest. It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it? Have you noticed that you don’t feel your heart beating when you don’t pay specific attention to it? If you have palpitations, you will immediately sense that something is wrong.
- Tinnitus: Auditory perception of a noise that does not exist (e.g., whistling, buzzing, etc.)
- Visual disturbances called phosphenes: The impression of seeing flashes or flashes.
- Nasal bleeding: Epistaxis.
- Fatigue, malaise: These are general non-specific symptoms.
What’s so bad about a little extra blood pressure?
Why is a value of 153/87 mmHg more harmful than 128/73?
After all, we would be tempted to think that these are only numbers. Should we really be worried about them?
High blood pressure manifests itself in two ways:
- It increases the pressure inside the blood vessels
- It thickens and stiffens the arteries.
Hypertension is a cardiovascular risk factor, promoting the formation of atherosclerotic plaques (the so-called arteriosclerosis). Hypertension also exposes you to an increased risk of various pathologies:
- Myocardial infarction
- Kidney failure
- Alzheimer’s disease
Here’s what happens:
When it tries to fight against the increased blood pressure, your heart struggles continually. As a result, it gradually becomes exhausted. Its walls thicken, and heart failure slowly sets in.
That’s why arterial hypertension is a chronic pathology with severe consequences and a harmful impact on your life quality.
But there is good news
Several variables allow us to prevent and control hypertension. First, it is necessary to know what influences its symptoms. There are two types of risk factors for arterial hypertension:
Non-modifiable risk factors
- Family history: If your parents have hypertension, you are more at risk for it.
Modifiable risk factors
- Being overweight/obese
- Sedentary lifestyle
- An unbalanced diet that’s high in salt
- Excess alcohol
- Sleep apnea (breathing pauses during sleep)
90% of hypertension appears without any real reason.
These modifiable factors are the core of the problem. By improving them, the risk of developing a severe pathology is reduced. As you can imagine, there are specific treatments that I won’t talk about here.
We are going to focus on hygiene and dietary rules. The few small efforts you’ll have to make will be highly beneficial in the long term.
5 Keys to Fight High Blood Pressure
- Low-salt diet
This point is essential but very difficult to follow through with because salt is hidden everywhere. However, cooking your own meals increases your control. So, avoid frozen or pre-cooked meals. Watch out for snacks like crisps and peanuts. Take the time to read the product labels and use tracking apps to monitor your salt intake.
- Cretan type diet
- It is low in animal fats and high in polyunsaturated fats.
- It involves the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- It encourages the consumption of fish two to three times a week.
- It promotes the use of vegetable oils.
- Stop alcohol-tobacco auto-intoxication
Tobacco stiffens the walls of the arteries, significantly increasing the risk of high blood pressure. It is a potent poison that you must quickly get out of your body.
According to the latest recommendations, the maximum alcohol intake is ten glasses/week and at least two days/week without any.
Warning: You don’t have to drink ten glasses per week just because that’s the allowed limit.
- Weight loss with BMI goal < 25
Reducing weight and, therefore, your BMI is correlated with a lower risk of high blood pressure. As a result, your risk for cardiovascular disease is lower.
Opt for a gradual caloric/portion-size reduction to rethink your lifestyle and keep your weight loss permanent. Avoid drastic diets, which lead to harmful weight fluctuations.
- Minimum physical activity of 30 minutes per day
Your workouts should be aerobic and challenging enough for your current level. Consider fast walking, running, cycling, or swimming. Also, include two days of resistance training per week to strengthen your muscles.
Establishing a workout routine that works for your schedule and sticking to it is essential. You must create the space and time that allows this (excellent) habit to develop.
Pascal decided to start thinking about quitting smoking! So it’s a big day for me, but especially for him. Well, it’s only the beginning, but I know that a marathon starts with a single step! I also know that I will always root for him and encourage him in the right direction.
Regarding his blood pressure, we started treatment after several tests. Pascal also decided to consult a dietician for a personalized health plan, which is another excellent idea.
The adventure continues!