JOURNAL

High blood pressure in real life

What is high blood pressure? To put it simply, in case of high blood pressure the heart has to work against elevated pressure to push blood in the vessels, and simultaneously an increased tension is forced on essential capillaries. This tension can cause damage in the arteries of the brain, kidney, coronary arteries, and so more.  It is like having a pressure cooker inside us.

Imagine how hard it is for your heart, working under a lot of stress or “pressure” and it is easy to predict that something will go wrong eventually. And yes; Hypertension is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death. That means 1 in every 4 deaths in America are caused by an impairment in the cardiovascular system. Yet, high blood pressure is called the “silent killer” as it can be present for years without being controlled or even diagnosed.

Current guidelines define high blood pressure (BP) as systolic BP over 130 mmHg and diastolic BP over 80 mmHg. Nearly half of adults in the United States (108 million, or 45%) have hypertension and/or take medication for hypertension. Clearly, this condition became an epidemic in our modern world, although it is proven by many researchers that lifestyle changes can profoundly improve this condition.

In the modern world, smoking, being overweight or obese, having a sedentary lifestyle, too much salt in the diet, excessive alcohol consumption is part of normal life, although they are directly linked to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.  How did it become such a trend to be unhealthy? What would it take to make healthy lifestyle desirable again?
Not even mention, the most difficult to change is stress. It seems like if someone is successful, they are stressed and when someone is not successful, they are stressed because of that.

Studies have shown that changing diet can reduce SBP by 8-14 mmHg, doing physical activity for 15 minutes/week reduces by 4-9 mmHg, weight loss by 5-20 mmHg and implementing stress processing habits can lower by 5 mmHg. Imagine that all these changes will have an additive effect on lowering blood pressure and supporting your cardiovascular system. Furthermore, they will improve your whole-body functions positively influencing the quality of your life. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

But let’s be honest. Changing the lifestyle of generations and lifelong habits are one of the most challenging tasks. When someone is diagnosed with high blood pressure by a primary care physician or cardiologist, they will get advised to start implementing healthy lifestyle modifications. However, doctors usually have a maximum of 15 minutes to explain how these modifications work.  Then when you go home, you have to face the abundant information on the internet that is many times controversial. And without clear guidance and being held accountable very little adjustment took place in the 3 months since old habits are very strong, and reforming them takes a lot of time and energy.

Eventually, you end up going back to the doctor who will prescribe some type of medication, that is masking the symptoms, but does not resolve the cause and will likely have to be taken until the rest of your life.
There is no one to blame for in this process.  The recommendations are so abundant on the internet that it is impossible to get to the best of them without help. Even with a true desire to take the necessary steps for our health, it is very difficult to convince our environment to do the same and easier to give up.  As always, taking medication is simpler way to fix a certain problem, but it has nothing to do with the cause that shifted your body out of balance. And if you don’t take care of the root, other issues may pop up potentially.

About the heart. Why would we make our most precious organ, something that beats throughout our life to keep us alive, work under such difficult circumstances? Our heart is responsible for mechanical pumping, but it truly plays significant part through its neurological system to experience joy, love, compassion, and appreciation. And most importantly, a  place for connection with others.
Let’s take care of our hearts.

“What happens when people open their hearts?”

“They get better.”

Haruki Murakami

Reference:

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm

[3] Chiuve, S. E., Fung, T. T., Rexrode, K. M., Spiegelman, D., Manson, J. E., Stampfer, M. J., & Albert, C. M. (2011). Adherence to a low-risk, healthy lifestyle and risk of sudden cardiac death among women. JAMA, 306(1), 62–69. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2011.907

[4] Effects of Comprehensive Lifestyle Modification on Blood Pressure Control: Main Results of the PREMIER Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2003;289(16):2083–2093. doi:10.1001/jama.289.16.2083