What is high blood pressure and why should you pay close attention to it:
When blood pressure is too high, it sets off a cascade of serious health risks in other organs and systems of the body. Before we get into exactly what those risks are, let’s discuss exactly what high blood pressure is. The definition is pretty much what it sounds like. It is the pressure that blood is putting on your artery walls. It can increase and reduce throughout the day based on activity and stress levels, but it is the chronic elevation of that pressure that has serious health consequences.
Those consequences include increased risk of heart attack and stroke, but also include lesser-known risks such as vision loss, kidney damage or failure, as well as cognitive decline. The reason for these multiple health assaults is that some of our blood vessels are fragile enough that the chronic pressure damages them to the point that it affects the surrounding tissues.
Blood pressure readings consist of two measurements – systolic and diastolic. The systolic pressure is the first number, which represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and pumps blood out. The diastolic pressure is the following number, which represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. So what blood pressure is too high? Normal blood pressure is near 120/80 mm Hg or lower. A systolic reading between 120-129 and a diastolic reading above 80 is considered elevated and readings above that are in the hypertension range. Chronic elevations increase risks based on the duration of and level of elevation. Any chronic elevation should be managed as soon as possible to decrease the multitude of impacts to your health.
Causes of high blood pressure and risk factors associated with it:
While some cases of hypertension can be attributed to genetics, lifestyle choices also play a significant role. Some of the most common risk factors associated with high blood pressure include being overweight, smoking, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Being inactive and having a family history of the condition are also major factors. Other factors such as high salt intake, chronic stress, and age, can all play a role in the development of high blood pressure. Additionally, individuals with diabetes or kidney disease are at a higher risk of developing hypertension.
Common signs and symptoms of hypertension:
One of the biggest concerns with high blood pressure is that there are often no noticeable symptoms. People can live with this condition for years without being aware of it. Others do experience symptoms including headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and chest pain. Some people will get regular nosebleeds, experience shortness of breath, and/or feelings of anxiety.
The potential lack of symptoms is a reason why it is important to get regular screenings. It is recommended that you are screened every two years, but if you can screen more often that is a good way to proactively manage a significant health risk. This is especially important if you have a family history of any related conditions, are under chronic stress, or have any of the previously mentioned risk factors.
Recommended lifestyle changes to help reduce elevated blood pressure levels:
General healthy lifestyle suggestions are often made online to lower blood pressure. These include exercising regularly, eating a diet high in vegetables and fruit, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake – essentially reducing as many of the risk factors as possible. In this section we will try to give you a little more information and touch on some of the reasons why some of these tips work well. We will also try to suggest some things you may not be aware of.
Certain minerals are important to healthy blood pressure, especially potassium. Oftentimes people with elevated blood pressure are consuming too much sodium relative to potassium. This is easy to do because the mineral content of our food has decreased significantly in the last 100 years. Eating high mineral and potassium foods while moderating salt intake can oftentimes bring down blood pressure. Some high potassium and mineral rich foods include sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, kale, and beet greens.
Another important input is stress management. We are not able to nor should we try to eliminate stress from our lives. We need stress to stay strong and healthy but there are times when we are inadequately managing our stress loads. In this case we should invest in ways to navigate that stress. This can be done by assessing our responsibilities and our ability to politely decline additional responsibility when we are at or near our limits. Taking on additional responsibility can be great but overriding our body’s signals chronically can lead to health consequences. Of course, reducing responsibility may not be optional in the short term so here is another idea. Another option for working with stress is finding ways to regulate our nervous systems. This can be done with deep breathing exercises as well as other techniques such as Epsom salt baths, tapping (EFT), and massages. Deep breathing exercises that focus on extended exhale are especially effective.
One surprisingly effective way of improving one’s blood pressure is regular consumption of Hibiscus tea. It has a bright red color, a tart refreshing taste, and can be found in many health-oriented grocery stores as well as at Cambiati Wellness. Drinking 3 cups per day of hibiscus tea has been shown to be quite effective. This common herbal tea has surprisingly significant scientific evidence to support its use. *
Cambiati also sells a supplement formulated by Designs for Health to promote healthy blood pressure. It is called HTN Supreme. This product works by promoting vessel elasticity, proper blood platelet function, and healthy blood flow. It contains Bonito peptide powder, which is shown to have excellent cardiovascular benefits including supporting relaxation of the blood vessels. It also contains Grape seed extract which is high in polyphenols that are rich in antioxidants and promote the activity of an enzyme that produces nitric acid. This substance is important in that it dilates and relaxes blood vessels thereby improving healthy blood flow. If you would like to try HTN Supreme you can find it here.
*Serban, C. (n.d.). Effect of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) on arterial hypertension: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25875025/