A modern plague… and what you can do about it.

There is an idiomatic quirk of the locale where I live.  A lot of people, when discussing their ailments love to express that they “Suffer with Blood Pressure”.  It is at this point that my inner pedant rises up in protest.  You do not suffer with blood pressure; you absolutely and totally require blood pressure in order to survive.  It is what pumps the blood around the body.  What you actually suffer with is either high blood pressure, or low blood pressure.

high blood pressure

Either is equally nasty, to be honest.  In modern days however, it is high blood pressure which is something of a plague.  I have lost count of the people who have been diagnosed with it in my network of friends and family (including myself at one stage), so I think it is quite important to think about the causes of it and what we can do in our own home arsenal, before we take to the medical profession.

Doctors actually call high blood pressure the silent killer, because it rarely causes you any problems until something in the body gives out, like your heart or your kidneys.  Effectively, it is the result of your system getting overstressed due to something or other.  Shortness of breath and severe headaches can be a sign of high blood pressure, but the only sure way of telling if it is normal or elevated is by going to get it checked.  A good guide is to get it measured once a year.  You can go to the doctor for this, but equally you can purchase your own machine from the pharmacy, or you can use some publicly available machines if that is a service provided in your community. If you are a normal, healthy person should have a blood pressure of below 140 over 90.  The last time I was checked, for my adoption medical, I was 120 over 80.

hypertension

A few years before that, when I was 35 or so, I went to the doctor reporting symptoms of unexplained headaches, nausea, no energy whatsoever and inability to sleep.  She took my blood pressure, took it a second time because she didn’t believe the first reading and then told me that if I didn’t calm down I was going to have a stroke before I turned 40.  It’s a shame I can’t remember the reading from that occasion, but I know it was elevated.  I am rather proud that I never required drugs to keep it under control.

I did my research.  I knew which risk factors I had (overweight, stressed to the maximum, pretty crappy diet at the time, hardly any exercise because I was anchored to a desk all day at work) and I knew I needed to change things if I wanted to beat the beta blockers.  So if you are in this position yourself, here is what you do.

vegetables

First, overhaul your diet.  I will be honest, I am not the best at eating like an angel all the time.  If I was, then I would have lost this excess weight a long time ago.  But one thing I have done is cut out the excess salt in your diet.  You might recall a few years ago there was a big push from the medical profession to the food industry to stop putting extra salt in things?  That was because of this, and the link to heart disease.  So…  gradually cut out convenience foods out of my diet.

Consequently, I lost some weight, and that is also good for the blood pressure.  I could stand with losing some more, but that is for the sake of vanity rather than anything else.  I do not need to do so for my blood pressure to equalise.  Another good tip is to learn how to breathe properly.  A lot of people do not take as deep breaths as they should, due in part to appalling posture brought on by sitting for long periods in front of a computer screen.  Taking deep breaths, holding it and then releasing it slowly is actually a great technique for relaxation as well.  I actually know of one lady who was about to be put on beta blockers, but learning how to breathe properly meant that she was able to get her blood pressure down entirely without the aid of drugs.

walking

You also need to do some exercise.  Walking is one of the best exercises you can do, and a gentle walk for 30-45 minutes per day is perfect for getting the blood pressure down.  You need to do this at least 3 times per week and ideally walk steadily without a break.  The whole point is to exercise your heart for a sustained period.

Walking is also a great stress reliever and walking the family pet is also a great reason to walk places.  Having a pet and fussing it, and receiving love back from it, is a wonderful feeling.  I certainly noticed the difference on adopting two cats and a nutty dog!  Anything that relieves stress in a healthy way is fine – get out and see people, laughing at a funny movie, listening to music you enjoy, planting something in the garden  (well, I like that, anyway!).  Anything that can get your blood pressure down and lets you chill out.  After all, another phrase for high blood pressure is hypertensive.

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