High blood pressure, also known as hypertension in medical terms, is one of the most common diseases. Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because of the fact that very few people are aware it is a threat until it is way above the healthy limit. According to a review by the American Heart Association, nearly one-third of Americans have high blood pressure. As you travel from the Western world to the Middle East, awareness about health issues decreases, resulting in uncontrolled diseases . Hypertension may come into your life acutely after a stressful event or can seize your life without letting you know when it is too late. The pattern is referred to as chronic hypertension, which requires lifelong treatment.
The modern history of hypertension begins very early compared to other diseases. It was first discovered back in 16th century in a book named “De motu cordis” written by William Harvey, who conducted research on the cardiovascular system.
In the 18th century, a British clergyman named Stephen Hales made the first published measurement of arterial blood pressure. Hypertension was described as a disease in the early 19th century. However it became a clinical entity by utilizing cuff measurement in late 1800s. Cuff measurement allowed blood pressure to be measured in the clinical setting. Nikolai Korotkoff achieved the major improvement in 1905 when he described the sounds that heard during auscultation while the cuff on the patient was deflated. He gave his last name to these sounds and today we still refer to them as Korotkoff sounds. The upper or first number (marked on first sound heard through auscultation) in a blood pressure reading is called the systolic pressure and the lower or second number (marked on last sound heard through auscultation) is called the diastolic pressure.
You will hear every heartbeat between these two numbers, but the reading of the highest and lowest is important clinically.
Many people are confused over which is considered more important. Well, both of them are. The background or physiology of these sounds is what makes them important to us. The systolic blood pressure represents the pressure in your arteries. This pressure occurs when the heart beats and pumps blood to the arteries. The second reading, which is recorded on the last sound heard, is the diastolic pressure and this is the pressure representing the resting or relaxation pressure of the arteries. Arteries are important as they are the pathways for oxygenrich blood in all parts of the body. If you have hypertension then your arteries wall stress will increase, resulting in constant constriction. Think of a water hose that you use in your garden and imagine you are closing the tip when there is water going through it. As much as you close the tip, the force of water exiting the hose will increase.
If you have ever observed the force of water in soil, you will notice that it lifts the soil off the ground. It is the same process that is being played out in your arteries when there is hypertension.
So, with high blood pressure your arterial walls will start to age, resulting in chronic arterial diseases. Moreover, in addition to an increase in wall stress, the amount of blood that travels might also decrease as well. There you go with two concomitant basic problems. This is why your arteries are important.
When they age, you age in return.
According to my clinical experience, I see many people with high blood pressure do not feel any symptoms until the very last moment and therefore they do not have their hypertension diagnosed until they come for a visit. There is no test available for us to know when hypertension starts, so if it is not treated for many years, we cannot estimate the destruction it has done to your body. We do advise that people get regular checkups but even if you do not like going to a doctor you can always check for your blood pressure at home. Blood pressure measurement is one of most frustration free diagnostic tools. You should at least give it a try and make it part of your routine. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and can cause severe injury to other organs.
Ideal, or normal, blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. When it is slightly elevated to the range of 120/80 or 140/90, one’s body is in a prehypertension state. In other words, your body can alert you that you are on track for hypertension.
In this range we can help you out with only lifestyle change instead of directly prescribing you a pill for it (if you do not have any other cardiovascular risk factor). Basic lifestyle modifications that help reduce blood pressure are losing weight, exercising and limiting salt intake. If a person’s blood pressure is over 140/90 they are considered to have stage 1 hypertension, and if it is over 160/100 they are in stage 2. In both stages you most probably will end-up taking pills to reduce your blood pressure, but in stage 1 there is at least hope that lifelong therapy will not be necessary.
Hypertension is a multifactorial clinical condition. Some of the factors can be controlled with lifestyle remodeling such as weight, salt use, habitual alcohol use, limited physical exercise and of course stress. The factors that cannot be controlled through alteration are your genetic predisposition, elderly age status and race.
Although we are aware of mechanisms and contribution factors of hypertension, we still cannot define what causes hypertension despite the fact that it was discovered as early as 1925. It is called essential or idiopathic, because we don’t really know where it comes from and roughly about 95 percent of all hypertension cases are in this group.
Improvement in medicine has taught us all the pathophysiology and treatment of this disease but not the root. We do hope that someday we will find it and eliminate this silent killer from people’s lives. Now let’s go through your alternative options in reducing blood apart from weight loss, routine exercise and reducing salt intake.
This tops the list of home remedies that help reduce blood pressure.
Many studies have shown that garlic can lower systolic blood pressure. On average, the efficacy of garlic on the reduction of blood pressure is about 10mm Hg (which is less than 10 percent). The active ingredient in garlic, allicin, is thought to be effective in this reduction. It is thought to lower blood pressure through the body’s nitric oxide system that relaxes the arteries.
There are some cons to using garlic depending on your condition, so please ask to your doctor if you are free to use it as a home remedy.
Hibiscus tea and supplements have been shown to lower blood pressure in human research. A systematic review of two randomized controlled trials found that hibiscus tea was associated with reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure when compared to black tea. The latter two studies were more important because they compared hibiscus extract to angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (actual hypertension medicines).
In these studies, researchers have shown reductions in blood pressure for hibiscus extract treated groups, but the effects were not as much as those recorded in ACE-inhibitor treated groups.
Chocolate / Cocoa:
Studies in humans have shown that eating dark chocolate or chocolate or cocoa products may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. The power source of cacao is flavonols. Although it is not powerful enough to treat hypertension, it does help. Research has shown that 50g of daily cocoa consumption is associated with 2 to 3 mm Hg drop in blood pressure.
Chocolate is believed to interact with the nitric oxide system resulting in relaxation of arteries. There are also some indicators that it may act similarity to angiotensinconverting enzyme inhibitors, the active substances in hypertension drugs. Despite the fact that we have some evidence, further research is still needed.
Vitamin D is oil based and found naturally in fish, eggs and milk. Our bodies also produce it naturally during exposure to the sun. In the current years recent research has proven the efficacy and power of Vitamin D to treat heart problems and some even call it the longevity vitamin. Low levels of vitamin D are thought to have a role in the development of high blood pressure. The literature establishing the connection of vitamin D with hypertension is scarce but the clues we are gathering from these limited number of studies is that blood pressure is often elevated when there is reduced exposure to sunlight or impaired vitamin D intake.
Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet:
Research has shown that vegetarians have a much lower incidence of high blood pressure. I am not indoctrinating or advising you to become a vegetarian but I am saying that you can at least benefit from this approach. You can gradually import vegetarian habits to your diet plan and in turn you will eat less fat and less salt while increasing you fiber and potassium intake.
It will help you to lose weight as well in addition to the basic benefits.
For a healthier cardiovascular system you need potassium and for a healthier body you need a healthier gut that the fiber will
provide you with.