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The Silent Killer – High Blood Pressure

Posted by Liza Muravyeva MS RD LD/N on Apr 23, 2012 10:35:00 AM

You may know someone who has high blood pressure - maybe an older aunt or uncle or even your grandma. But lately I have been hearing more and more cases of high blood pressure from people all round me! Even from people as young as 25 years old.      

What is blood pressure?

blood pressure - 'the silent killer'Blood pressure is “the force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates through your body”, CDC . Although it’s natural for your blood pressure to go up and drop throughout the day if you are in a stressful situation, it should stabilize and return to normal (120/80mm Hg).

The problem lies when you have constant high blood pressure, which increases your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or heart disease. Unless you are checked, many may not even know they have high BP, and therefore it is called the “silent killer” (1,2)

The top number of your blood pressure reading (systolic) is the number representing the pressure in your blood when your heart beats.  The bottom number diastolic is the pressure in your vessels when your heart is relaxed. Currently, an estimated 68 million in the US have high blood pressure, that’s 1 in 3!! (3)

Long Term Affect

Not only does it put you more at risk for heart disease and stroke, it can also negatively affect other organs. If you suffer from constant high blood pressure and do not take the necessary actions to treat it, it may eventually cause some blood vessels in your eyes to burst and impair your vision. High blood pressure can cause congestive heart failure, and over time can even thicken the blood vessels in the kidneys which may cause kidney failure. High BP can also all together stiffen the arteries in your body, which makes pumping blood through your system more difficult. Other than having a splitting headache, very high blood pressure can cause a break in a blood vessel causing a stroke (4)

If you do have high blood pressure there are several things you can do to try and decrease it – of course consult with your physician before engaging in any of these activities/suggestions:

  • Exercise
  • Practice stress relieving activities such as meditation or yoga
  • Reduce your sodium intake
  • Possibly take a vitamin C supplement

Miller and colleagues analyzed data from 20 different published clinical trials, and found that taking an average of 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily, reduced blood pressure by 3.84 millimeters of mercury in the short term, and decreased BP by 5 millimeters of mercury in those with hypertension. For someone not on medication, the higher dose of vitamin C may act as a diuretic, therefore decreasing fluid from your body (5,6).

If you are concerned about your blood pressure, check with your doctor first to see if there are any modifications you can work into your diet & lifestyle. By exercising, you are reducing your stress levels and helping your body maintain its strength. It doesn’t hurt to check it once in a while!

References:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm
  2. Miniño AM, Murphy SL, Xu J, et al. Deaths: Final data for 2008. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 59 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011.
  3. CDC. Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of hypertension—United States, 1999-2002 and 2005-2008. MMWR. 2011;60(4):103-8.
  4. “Your guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure" http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/hbp/effect/brain.htm
  5.  “Big Doses of Vitamin C May Lower Blood Pressure” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120418111810.htm
  6. 6.S. P. Juraschek, E. Guallar, L. J. Appel, E. R. Miller. Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.027995


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian before starting any exercise regimen or changes in your diet.

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