The Lowdown on High Blood Pleasure - The Borneo Post - Sunday, 2 September, 2001

What Is Blood Pressure?
E very time the heart beats, it pumps blood through the arteries to the rest of the body. The peak readings of the resulting pressure on the artery walls is known as the systolic pressure. Between beats, the heart relaxes and the pressure drops. The very lowest reading then is called the diastolic pressure. (These measurements are unrelated to your 'pulse rate', which is the number of times the heart beats per minute).

Blood Pressure Varies
It is usually lower when we are asleep and higher when we get excited, stressed or are exciting. Temporary rises are quite natural and blood pressure re will return to normal when we relax.

These constant changes make it difficult to get a "true" blood pressure picture from a single reading. In consultation with your doctor an accurate record of blood pressure over a period of time can be a valuable aid in diagnosing and preventing potential health problems.

What Is "HIGH" Blood Pressure?
A blood pressure standard has been established by WHO (The World Health Organisation) which, although only a guideline, is generally accepted by the medical profession. If your systolic pressure were 120, of mercury and your diastolic 80, your measurements would be recorded as 120/80.

How Does High Blood Pressure Develop?
Blood pressure depends on two main things the amount of blood pumped by the heart and how easily the blood can flow through the thousands of small branch arteries throughout the body.

Muscles in walls of these arteries are important in controlling blood pressure. When an artery tenses, the channel inside it narrows and when it relaxes the channel opens out. The narrower the channels, the harder it is for blood to flow through and the higher the blood pressure becomes. The hydraulic pressure builds up just as when you shut the nozzle of a garden hose.

Why Does High Blood Pressure Matter?
Whilst occasional high blood pressure may be a result of exertion, continual hypertension is dangerous because it overloads your vital organs and delicate arteries. The heart, brain and kidneys can resist high pressure for long periods, but over time this can lead to serious health problems.

If high blood pressure is not treated, the heart becomes too weak for the continual extra demand and cannot do its pumping job properly. This may cause what is known as congestive heart failure, with tiredness, shortness of breath and swelling of the feet and ankles.

High blood pressure may also cause arteries to clog up faster. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke if the arteries, which supply blood to the heart or the brain becomes clogged. Stroke can also occur when high blood pressure express weaknesses in the blood vessel walls of the brain.

As well as a major risk factor in heart and brain disease, high blood pressure may also affect arteries in other parts of the body such as eyes and legs and in the longer term, seriously damage the kidneys.

AVAILABLE TREATMENTS FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Blood Pressure Control with Drug Treatment
There is a range of effective drugs available on prescription to control blood pressure and their benefits far outweigh the problems that can occur. Most people don't have any side effects and can live a normal lifestyle by working in partnership with their doctor.

Help Your Doctor Help You
Keep appointments! Your doctor may advise you to have your blood pressure checked regularly, maybe weeks or months apart. It's important to keep drug dosage need constant monitoring. Your doctor may advise you to monitor your own blood pressure at home with a device you can buy from a chemist at a very affordable price.

How Is Blood Pressure Measured?
Blood pressure is traditionally measured by a mercury column & stethoscope and now, increasingly, by user-friendly electronic digital monitors such as the Braun model pictured. These do not rely on human eye and coordination but work on a sophisticated "Oscillometric" method which senses the actual pulse waves in the body and gives an accurate digital readout of systolic, diastolic and pulse rate in less than a minute at the push of a button.

Measuring Your Blood Pressure At Home
It has been documented that when a doctor or nurse is measuring, the patient tends to become tense, causing blood pressure to rise, so accurate records of the home measurements can be great a help in putting together a clear picture. (Always remember, it is your doctor's training and knowledge that allows him/her to interpret any changes).

Over half of the diagnosed 'hypertensives' take medication which, whilst helping control symptoms 64% of the time, leaves over a third "untreatable". Fortunately, medication is not the only answer and high blood pressure can often be controlled through attention to diet and lifestyle habits.

Even though it's a team effort between you and your doctor, you, more than anyone, can bring about change...

BLOOD PRESSURE CONTROL WITHOUT DRUGS

Increase Exercise
"Aerobic" exercise (swimming, walking, cycling, jogging) tones heart muscle and increases its pumping capacity. The heart pumps the same amount of blood with fewer contractions, so improving its efficiency.

Give Up Smoking
Smoking raises blood pressure by displacing oxygen with carbon monoxide in the haemoglobin (the blood's oxygen transporter). The heart overworks to maintain a necessary supply of oxygen to the body.

Eat Fewer Fats
Excess dietary fat can lead to high cholesterol levels, blocked arteries and weight gains, all of which force the heart to work harder. By reducing fat intake, you increase heart efficiency.

Lower Salt Intake
Salt causes the body to retain water, swelling the tissues, which squeeze the arteries and restrict blood flow.

Lower Body Weight
Excess body fat makes the heart work harder to pump blood through an increased body mass, so gradual weight loss programmes are beneficial.

Minimise Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol consumption causes dehydration and thickening of the blood. This means the heart is overworked, because the blood consistency is thicker and hydraulically more difficult to move.

Reduce Stress & Anxiety
There is a causal link between stress management and a fall in blood pressure. Relaxation techniques, regular sleep and positive self-esteem can all help keep stress and anxiety from elevating your blood pressure.