I was diagnosed with hypertension when I was 25 years old and suffering from chronic migraines. Research suggests if your family records reveal a history of hypertension, it can increase your risk by 60%. Several blood relatives on my mother and father’s side of the family suffered from elevated blood pressure.
Prior to my diagnosis, a variety of doctors, including a neurologist required several CT’s, a daily journal documenting my health, as well as weekly visits to monitor my blood pressure.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension basically means, while your heart is beating, too much force is being applied to the blood vessels within the heart, causing the heart to work harder to maintain pressure. Because the heart’s vessels are very strong, this can go on for years, undetected; however, the heart could enlarge, hypertrophy, and eventually stop working.
The systolic, or top number in a blood pressure reading, is the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle.
The diastolic, or bottom number is the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart muscle is between beats.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg (periodic symbol for mercury), which is the standard unit of measure for pressure in medicine.
Hypertension contributing factors
Nearly 30% of the United States population is hypertensive.
The following can contribute to the severity and prognosis of the disease:
- Salt intake
- Elevated cholesterol numbers
- Glucose intolerance
Two of every three Americans are considered to be overweight or obese. Being overweight increases the amount of fatty tissue in your body, which increases vascular resistances, resulting in the heart working harder to pump blood throughout the body.
Although salt helps our nerves and muscles to function correctly and is necessary for our bodies, eating too much salt can cause an imbalance which reduces our kidneys’ ability to remove water. The fluid build up causes the blood vessels to become strained, which elevates blood pressure.
High cholesterol numbers indicate a build-up of artery plaque and calcium resulting in the heart working harder to pump blood through the clogged arteries.
Diabetes is the result of the body’s inability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin, which leads to elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine. High sugar levels in the body decrease the blood vessels’ ability to stretch and increase fluids, both cause the heart to work harder than it should, transporting blood.
When we are stressed, our bodies produce hormones which quicken our heart rate and constrict blood vessels, therefore, elevating our blood pressure.
Managing hypertension with food
HBP is known as the “silent killer,” because many do not know they even have it, so monitoring your blood pressure is key, especially if you already endure any of the other contributing factors.
Unfortunately, my family medical history made me more susceptible to high blood pressure. Fortunately, I only had to try a few prescription medications, to find the proper one for me.
I take my medicine religiously – at the same time daily. If I do not, I will notice within a couple of hours. However, here are my dietary rules to keep my numbers in check:
- AVOID EXCESS SALT. I NEVER use table salt. When cooking, I only use kosher salt minimally.
- CHECK NUTRITION LABEL SODIUM LEVELS. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. Keep this in mind when you pick up a can of soup, which is notoriously high in sodium.
- EAT FOODS HIGH IN POTASSIUM. Sodium and potassium have opposite effects on heart health: High salt intake increases blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, while high potassium intake can help relax blood vessels and excrete the sodium and decrease blood pressure.
- LIMIT SWEETS AND SUGAR FILLED TREATS. I never had much of a sweet tooth, but I am very conscientious of how often I eat sugar-filled desserts.
- DRINK LOTS OF WATER. I rarely drink any soft drinks or sugary sodas. I try to drink at least 50-60 ounces of water daily.
- MONITOR CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION. I have my one cup of coffee each morning and an occasional latte, but I am very well aware and document my caffeine consumption.
- LIMIT ALCOHOL. Although doctors do not know the exact mechanism which causes or sometimes induces high blood pressure, research proves there is a correlation between alcohol and stressed heart function. I limit my alcohol intake to 2-3 drinks per week.
Hypertension is a very serious disease and should be monitored and treated by a physician. I visit my doctor every six months to verify my Ziac is working as it should.
If left unchecked or undiagnosed, it could result in a heart attack, stroke or death.
HEART HEALTHY SALMON
2 Tablespoons olive oil 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 chopped garlic cloves 3 cups diced tomatoes
3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable juice 2 cups frozen lima beans
1 (10 oz) skinless salmon fillet salt & pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill 1/2 lemon
In a 10″ non-stick skillet, warm the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the pepper flakes and garlic, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the vegetable juice and lima beans and simmer, stirring occasionally for 7-8 minutes. Place the salmon fillets over the veggie mix, apply salt and pepper lightly. Cover the pan and steam on low heat for 5-6 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in the dill and garnish with lemon.
What other health topics would you like for me to find food-related management techniques?