Blood Pressure

The economic boom in Alberta and rest of Canada is probably giving you a headache. But what is it doing to your blood pressure? In the last one year how many times have you checked your bank balance and compare that to when was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?

We know that anxiety does not cause permanent high blood pressure but it can cause dramatic temporary spikes of high blood pressure which can cause damage to our blood vessels and vital organs like heart and kidneys. It can damage the brain and retina. Persistent or recurrent anxiety can make us prone to picking up bad habits like smoking, drinking or eating too much unhealthy food. Combination of these factors can increase our risk of high blood pressure.

The booming economy brings with it a significant amount of stress as well. Most of the time anxiety and stress go hand in hand. To some it may mean one and the same thing. However you look at it anxiety and stress is bad for your blood pressure.

World Health Organization says that hypertension (high blood pressure) causes seven million premature deaths worldwide each year. Hypertension affects 22 percent of Canadians. It is estimated that 25 percent of the 42 million people with high blood pressure in the United States are unaware that they have hypertension. These patients probably have no symptoms. That is dangerous. That is why it is called a silent killer.

The incidence of hypertension increases with age. Most elderly Canadians have high blood pressure – probably due to thickening of blood vessels. No cause is identified in 80 to 95 percent of people with hypertension. This is known as idiopathic or essential hypertension. Others have hypertension due to primary disease of kidneys or due to certain hormonal disorders

We eat too much and we do not exercise enough. Our blood vessels become harder and less compliant with age. When the blood is pumped out of the heart into less compliant blood vessels, the blood pressure goes up. So the heart has to work harder – and eventually it becomes tired, weak and fails. It silently causes damage to our vital organs and eventually results in heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.

Normally, systolic blood pressure should be less than 140 mm Hg (mercury) and diastolic pressure of less than 90 mm Hg. It is written as – systolic over diastolic (for example 120/80 mm Hg). Blood pressure is lowest in the early morning, rises as the day progresses, and then dips down during the night and earliest hours of the morning.

Blood pressure also varies from minute to minute, depending on levels of stress and physical activity. “White-coat hypertension” means a person’s blood pressure is up in the doctor’s office but not elsewhere.

Hypertension can be prevented and treated with lifestyle changes – with or without medication. Eat a healthy diet, lose weight if you are overweight, do not smoke, limit alcohol intake, eat a low salt diet, minimize sugar intake, do regular exercise, relax and learn to manage stress with laughter and meditation.

If your doctor wants you take pills to control your blood pressure then make sure you take it regularly. Research has shown that 50 per cent of the patients with high blood pressure discontinue their antihypertensive medications by the first year. This is no good.

So, when was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?

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