Understanding high blood pressure

by Rebecca Huber

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the most common cardiovascular dysfunctions of our society. One in every six Americans now suffer from it. Sustained hypertension can lead to cardiovascular, cerebrovascular (stroke-related diseases) and renal (kidney) disease.

Hypertension is defined as persistently high blood pressure, in adults, when the systolic pressure, the first number, is greater than 140mmHg and diastolic pressure, the second or lower figure is greater than 90mmHg. Systolic pressure is the measurement of the intensity at which the heart works, and diastolic pressure measures the heart at rest. Physicians will become concerned when the diastolic pressure stays even slightly elevated before they become concerned over an elevated systolic pressure. Reason: if the pressure inside the heart is high during the resting state, the pressure inside the heart during the working stroke will be very high.

A high systolic pressure, not accompanied by a high diastolic pressure, is usually not of concern and can actually be considered normal. High systolic pressure can be brought on by simple exercise, mental or emotional stress and pain. When one returns to a more relaxed state, the blood pressure will very quickly return to normal.

There are essentially two types of hypertension. Essential hypertension accounts for 95 percent of all hypertension cases, and although the etiology of it is unknown, we can most likely attribute several factors to its cause such as carrying too much weight, diet, smoking, heredity, stress and sustained aggressive emotions like anger, fear or panic. Secondary hypertension is a symptom of other more serious dysfunctions, such as kidney disease or vascular disease of the kidney.

Signs and symptoms of essential hypertension include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, palpitations of the heart, nosebleeds and a fast heart rate. If you have these symptoms and are concerned about your blood pressure, check with your health care provider and, by all means, have your blood pressure checked regularly.

You may need medication to gain control over your hypertension. Sustained hypertension -- even if you are lucky enough not to have a stroke or heart attack -- will make your blood vessels and your body old before its time.

A clean diet, healthy servings of fruits and vegetables -- raw or steamed, is an important addition to treatment. The vitamins and minerals they contain will help cleanse and keep fluid retention at a minimum. Drink plenty of fresh clean water.

From the herbal kingdom, utilize cayenne, chamomile, fennel, parsley and hawthorn berries. Primrose or flax seed oil are also beneficial.

Massage has been proven to lower blood pressure by inducing the relaxation response. It also helps blood flow by reducing resistance in the peripheral vascular system (all the smaller blood vessels and capillaries.)

High blood pressure, controlled, does not have to rule your life. Most of us do not like taking medication, but it's a small price to pay. Work towards improving your diet, weight loss if needed and relaxation. Given time and these measures, you and your doctor may find you may eventually not need that medication.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online March 6, 2001

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