High Blood Pressure Risks

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, refers to an escalated heart rate resulting from increased physical demands being placed on the body. It is defined as having systolic blood pressure greater than 140 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 mmHg, for a sustained period of time. Since it is a pathological condition, it requires prompt treatment otherwise serious complications can arise.

A typical response to an increase in the heart rate is the enlargement of the heart itself, or an increase in the muscle mass in order to keep up with high levels demanded of it. This condition is known as left ventricular hypertrophy, which eventually leads to the failure of the heart as a pump.

High blood pressure in the arteries leads to the formation of fat deposits in the arterial walls (atherosclerosis) which narrows the lumen of arteries. Hence, less blood flows through them which deprives several body organs off their normal oxygen supply, resulting in the failure of those organs. Atherosclerosis in the arteries supplying the heart itself is a major cause of heart attacks. In the brain, kidney and eyes; occlusion of arteries result in stroke, chronic kidney failure and vision loss respectively.

High blood pressure may also weaken the vessel walls causing them to bulge; a condition referred to as aneurysm formation. If an aneurysm ruptures, blood leaks into the surrounding area causing severe internal bleeding or hemorrhage. Hemorrhage in the brain is highly dangerous and instantly results in the death of the person.

Increased blood pressure is also associated with problems in memory and cognition, vertigo, dementia and ringing in the ears. Long-standing hypertension is also known to cause a metabolic disorder, diabetes, and complications associated with it.

Hypertension is a chronic malfunction and requires chronic treatment with anti-hypertensive drugs such as nitroprusside, beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers and so on.

What Kinds Of Food Cause High Blood Pressure?

Blood primarily contains blood cells, platelets, dissolved electrolytes (namely, sodium, potassium, chlorides and bicarbonates) and proteins. These components determine the pressure of blood in the body. Hence, maintenance of normal blood pressure is closely associated with the dietary intake of a person.

Consumption of foods that are rich in sodium content put people at a higher risk of developing hypertension. Examples include meat, frozen pizza, fruit and vegetable juices, canned soup, and tomato products. The recommended daily intake of sodium for an individual is between 1000 and 1500 mg.

It may not be known to the general public that a high sugar intake can also end up causing an increase in the blood pressure. Food rich in carbohydrates like potatoes, soft drinks, alcohol, cakes, sugary cereals, jams, bread products, jellybeans, butterscotch, powdered sugar and syrups are some items to be avoided by patients with hypertension.

Other food items that sustain an increase in the blood pressure are saturated or trans fats. There is no hiding the fact that fat consumption predisposes a person to develop atherosclerosis by raising the amount of cholesterol in the body. Chicken meals, packaged food and beef, happen to be the highest sources fats in the general population of the US. Regular cheese, grain-based desserts, dairy desserts, bacon, sausage, hamburgers, whole milk and butter are some food items containing saturated fats that make up the diet of an average American.

Caffeine containing foods, like tea, coffee, caffeinated food snacks and over-the-counter pills can also increase the blood pressure in hypertensive patients. The mechanism by which this happens is unclear.

The foods mentioned above should be avoided by people with long-standing hypertension, otherwise serious complications can manifest themselves.

Does Alcohol Cause High Blood Pressure?

Ironically, alcohol that may reduce your blood pressure when taken in small to moderate amounts is known to cause drastic increases in it when consumed in large amounts. The risk of developing hypertension due to alcohol is 16%. For every 10g of alcohol taken, there is one mmHg rise in the blood pressure which can be reversed within 2 to 4 weeks by cutting down the consumption.

The mechanism by which this happens is not well defined. One theory, however, is that alcohol has high caloric content which leads to increased cholesterol levels in the body which are a risk factor for hypertension. A regular drink consists of 355 ml of beer, 148 ml of wine or 44 ml of distilled spirits.

Alcoholism is not just exclusively associated with high blood pressure. In recent years, it has contributed to stroke, heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, anaemia, dementia, depression, seizures, gout, liver diseases and breast cancer in women. Also, it interrupts with the pharmacological actions of drugs including blood pressure drugs.

Drinking alcohol is plain hazardous in some people like those with a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular diseases, some deficiency disorders and pregnant women. However, small to moderate amounts of it can be taken by others. Two drinks a day for men younger than 65 years of age, one drink a day for men above 65 years of age and 1 drink a day for women of any age are considered to be non-toxic. In fact, flavonoid components of red wine day are known to cut down a considerable amount of cholesterol in the body, thus, preventing hypertension. According to one study, it is said that reduced consumption by heavy drinkers may lessen the systolic blood pressure by 2-4 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1 to 2 mmHg.

Does Smoking Cause High Blood Pressure?

Studies have shown that smoking does cause an increase in blood pressure. The main culprit here is nicotine present in cigarettes. It is suggested that nicotine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to release more catecholamines (hormones) than normal. These catecholamines have an excitatory effect on heart rate. Additionally, nicotine also causes vasoconstriction, thereby, enhancing resistance. It is, therefore, a double-edged sword in this case. The effects of nicotine also include hardening of the artery walls and formation of blood clots. These make a person more susceptible to heart attacks.

As disastrous as it sounds, smoking causes malignant hypertension. Malignant hypertension refers to severe hypertension with vision loss. There are now 1.3 billion cigarette smokers worldwide. The incidence of hypertension is increased in persons who smoke 15 cigarettes per day. Smoking causes a transient increase in blood pressure by as much as four mmHg. Smoking, in fact, is more dangerous than any other factor contributing to high blood pressure because the harmful effects of it do not go away until ten years after cessation of smoking. And by then, it has not only taken a toll on blood pressure but also on lungs.

Quite contradictorily, blood pressure in long-term smokers is recorded to be less than non-smokers of same age groups. Some researchers suggest that is due to the weight reducing effects of smoking.

There is no other solution to treating smoking-induced hypertension other than completely giving it up. While some smokers can do this instantaneously, others find it difficult to simply cut down. If you find yourself unable to quit, you should consult a physician who can help make the withdrawal symptoms more comfortable for you. Keep reminding yourself that while it won’t be easy, it is essential for the sake of both your health and your family. Hopefully this will spur you on to succeed.

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