Heart Health Information: A Guide To Hypertension

High blood pressure can be treated through a program of proper diet, exercise, and if required, medications. Includes info on causes, prevention and recovery.

What is the leading cause of death? Some might say heart attacks. Some might tell us that it is cancer. Some might say automobile accidents. All wouldn't be wrong, as each one of those is right up there as far as fatality statistics are concern.

But how many would name as one of the leading causes of death a condition known as high blood pressure. Another name for this is hypertension, and when someone is diagnosed with this condition, at first they may not take it all that seriously. Because what's the big deal? What real harm does a bit of elevated blood flow really cause? Persons diagnosed with this condition may in fact not consider doing all those things that will help alleviate or remedy this condition. Known as the "ňúsilent killer' as it usually presents no clear symptoms, this condition is still a serious one that can produce life-threatening consequences.

But by becoming aware of lifestyle and those things we do that can attribute to what can be a debilitating condition will help improve a person's overall health.

But first we must understand what this disease is and how it develops. A brief explanation is as follows:

Our cardiovascular system is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body via the heart and blood vessels. Arteries carry oxygen to tissues and organs. The largest of these, called the aorta is where the blood leaves the heart. Blood is carried from the arteries to what is called arterioles. An exchange takes place in what is called the capillaries, where waste products are processed. Through a network of veins this blood is then sent back to the heart, where it is sent back to the lungs, and there fresh oxygen is picked up. Then again back to the heart, where the process starts over. None of this process can be accomplished without the required blood pressure.

Several organs help to control this pressure. These are the heart, the arteries, and the kidneys. As long as these organs stay healthy, and in good shape, basically there will be no problem with the flow of blood (blood pressure.) But once the heart has to work harder because of say some faulty plumbing, i.e. the arterial walls may have lost some of their elasticity or may have become narrow. This can and usually will impair blood flow. Also, if the kidneys fail to perform their so-called designated function, one of which is to regulate sodium levels in the body, this in turn will cause the body to retain fluids. As a consequence, again the flow of blood may be negatively affected. If the pressure is consistently high, this usually indicates that the disease is present.

Basically, if high blood pressure (hypertension) is left untreated, then possible damage to organs and body tissue will result.

One way to control high blood pressure is to first keep track of the level of pressure in the blood flow. A sphygmomanometer is a small piece of medical equipment that is used to measure a person's blood pressure. An inflatable cuff is wrapped around the upper portion of the arm. Through the use of an air pump and a measurement that uses mercury will determine whether the pressure is within a safe range.

The first reading is the systolic pressure, which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts, and releases the blood into the aorta. The second number is the diastolic pressure, indicating how much pressure is in the arteries as blood flows into the heart. The systolic number is written over the diastolic. A normal or healthy reading would probably read 120/80 mm HG. A high range would fall around 140/90.

Many outside influences affect these blood pressure numbers. Lifestyle is probably one of the main influences. Caffeine and nicotine are well known culprits that can raise a person's pressure. Alcohol is another influence that may decrease blood pressure flow.

Some ways to help prevent this condition involve regular exercise, stress management, healthy eating, weight control, quitting nasty habits such as smoking, and watching sodium (salt) intake. If such changes in lifestyle and preventive measures don't work, then a program of medication will probably be required, some of which include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha blockers, and diuretics.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is not to be taken likely, and with the right attitude, the right approach, i.e. a willingness to do all those things necessary that will help correct or control this condition, persons suffering from this disease can and do lead fairly healthy lives.

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