Complete enough forms in your life, and eventually you’ll encounter the question: “Does anyone in your family have a history of the following?”
I always pause, because it’s obvious that at least one of the choices should be checked, I’m just not sure which one. Perhaps the question they’re really asking is: “Are you aware?”
High blood pressure. Check.
Wait. They’re the same thing. Hypertension is the word to described high blood pressure. And one of the most dangerous aspects of it is that you may never be aware you have it until you experience a serious, life threatening, symptom.
Left untreated, it can lead to serious diseases such as stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and heart problems.( http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-symptoms-high-blood-pressure ).
The truth is that hypertension is largely a symptomless condition. That is, “until.” It is these “until” moments that have contributed to another, more often used monicker – “silent killer.”
Proactive awareness and appropriate action are some of the best measures you can take. Awareness, is easy.
A simple risk assessment can assist in deciding what actions to take.
- Do other members of your family have it ? ( they would benefit from knowing if you have it too)
- Are you overweight or have diabetes?
- Do you drink or smoke?
- Do you ingest a lot of salty foods?
Often, no direct cause is determined – this is called “essential hypertension.”
Other times, high blood pressure can be caused by another medical condition or medication – called “secondary hypertension.” Causes of secondary hypertension include:
- Medications such as birth control and diet pills
- Narrowed arteries.
Or simply age. As we get older, our arteries become less flexible, our blood vessels stiffen, causing our blood pressure to rise. ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001502/ )
Other symptoms are more severe – nausea, extreme headaches, changes in vision, confusion – called “malignant hypertension.” If you suffer from any of these, see your care provider.
Appropriate action to increase your awareness is the next step.
Our care providers are usually well equipped to check and diagnose the condition. If you find that to be inconvenient, there are plenty of pharmacies with self-directed equipment to use – almost all of us have walked past those machines at one time or another. Or learn to read your own and do it at home. It takes less time than checking the fluids in your car.
Blood pressure should be checked several times before diagnosis, as it is common for our blood pressure to vary throughout the day.
Treatment can vary too. There are medications that can be prescribed, and simple lifestyle changes that can be adopted. Maybe it’s time to cut down or eliminate some foods, or introduce a little more activity in your week. Believe me, a little will go a long way.
I’ve managed my own blood pressure down to the healthiest point it’s been since I can remember – through 3 days of walking 60 min. or longer per week, and simplifying my diet. My walks are not primarily for exercise, as I usually carry my camera to capture some photos along the way. Sure, I’ll still enjoy some “foods that should be avoided,” but they are now the exception and not the rule. And the side benefits are incredible – sleep being the best. It’s not that I get more hours of sleep, it’s the quality. I’m calmer, more productive at work and just plain feel better.
If hypertension can lead to negative symptoms, becoming aware and addressing it early and consistently may definitely result in positive results.
Sweet and Simple Sweet Potato Smoothie
Unlike many smoothies, this really does feel like a meal. The sweet potato provides a substantial density and nutritional profile here (both beta carotene and antioxidants), along with vitamin C in the fruit. I used eggnog flavored soymilk for a festive touch, but you can use any milk you please in this.
1 medium sweet potato, baked until very soft, peeled and chilled overnight
3 mandarin oranges (or one small seedless orange), seeded, peeled and broken into sections
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) ground chia seeds
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) whole old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/2 tsp. (7.5 ml.) cinnamon
2 cups (480 ml.) eggnog flavored soy milk, or flavor of your choice
Cut the sweet potato into chunks and place in a blender with all the other ingredients. Blend until very smooth and thick. Adjust the amount of milk to desired thickness. Drink immediately. Makes 2 breakfast or 4 snack servings.
(alternate recipe here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/424470-smoothies-for-high-blood-pressure-high-cholesterol/ )