High blood pressure is known as the ‘silent killer’ as there are rarely visible symptoms. Two out of three people with high blood pressure are unaware of the condition.
What is high blood pressure?
Your blood pressure is the force exerted by your heart, against the resistance created by the arter- ies, to keep blood flowing throughout the body. Your blood pressure is high (hypertension) when the force is excessive.
At what level is blood pressure high?
|Top Number (Systolic)||Bottom Number (Diastolic)||Stage|
|140-159||90-99||Stage 1 (Mild)|
|160-179||100-109||Stage 2 (Moderate)|
|180-209||110-119||Stage 3 (Severe)|
|210+||120+||Stage 4 (Very Severe)|
What is hypertension?
Hypertension is when blood pressure is constantly raised, even when the patient is at rest.
There are, however, natural rises in the blood pressure of healthy people. Blood pressure is affected by body position, breathing, emotional state, exercise and sleep.
Blood pressure is usually the lowest when asleep and highest when excited, stressed or exercising. Blood pressure tends to rise with age or during illness.
Risk factors for high blood pressure:
- A family history of high blood pressure.
- An unhealthy diet, including excessive salt intake.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Being overweight.
- Physical inactivity – lack of exercise.
- Stress – stress levels are hard to measure and responses to stress vary from person to person.
- Ethnic groups
- Certain medications such as birth control pills, steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Diseases such as kidney disease.
What harm does high blood pressure do?
High blood pressure sufferers may feel perfectly well for years but they are at risk of damaging their arteries and vital organs.
High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke (brain attack) and affect other parts of the body such as the eyes (glaucoma, blindness), kidneys (kidney disease and failure) and peripheral vascular disease (circulation problems in which the arteries that carry blood to the legs or arms become narrowed or clogged).
How can I decrease my blood pressure level?
- Eat 3-6 small meals per day.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet, low in saturated fat.
- Overweight people are advised to lose weight.
- Limit salt or sodium chloride intake to one teaspoon per day.
- If you drink alcohol do so in moderation.
- Caffeine in coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolates may cause blood pressure to increase temporarily.
- Physical inactivity should be part of your daily routine.
- Stress management is important in keeping your blood pressure under control.
Simple guidelines to decrease salt intake:
- Understand hidden salt i.e. check food labels.
- Don’t use salt when preparing food but rather use fresh herbs and spices. Enjoy the natural flavor of food.
- Alternative to salt is pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, fresh garlic, hot pepper sauce, onion powder and home-made salad dressings without added salt.