If you’ve ever owned a pool you’ll be keenly aware of what happens when your pump and filter breaks; the water flow stops, dirt builds up, algae blooms and you have a big problem on your hands. Most car owners are also vividly attune to the costs, complications and annoyance of their petrol pump breaking and their filters being dirty.
How about fish tank enthusiasts? They’ll quickly tell you how important their pump and filtration systems are in keeping the eco-system of their aquariums in check. Your body, too, has a pump and a filtration system and if these go bonkers, you could be in for a lot of discomfort, a long road to recovery and a shopping list of medical cost.
One of the key factors in managing your heart, kidneys and general organ health lies in managing your blood pressure. In our super-stressful lifestyles and high-salt diets, many people are walking around completely unaware of their high blood pressure. This condition is known as hypertension and places stress on your entire body.
Doctors have dubbed hypertension the ‘silent killer’ because it often has no symptoms and may go unnoticed until it’s too late. There is a good reason that one of the standard checks in any medical exam is blood-pressure! It’s also a key factor when applying for risk cover.
UNDERSTANDING BLOOD PRESSURE (INFO FROM DISCHEM)
There are two blood pressure numbers and both are important: systolic blood pressure (the top or higher number) and diastolic (the bottom or lower number). Systolic blood pressure is the pressure inside your arteries when the heart contracts and pumps blood into them. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure inside your arteries when the heart relaxes and fills with blood.
Optimal blood pressure (BP) is systolic BP below 120 (mmHg) and diastolic BP below 80 (mmHg), or 120/80. Blood pressure of 140/90 is considered high BP (HBP).
Over time, high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart attack, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, heart failure, kidney damage and even eye damage! The higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk of developing these complications.
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
• Age – The older you are the more likely you are to have high blood pressure.
• Gender – Men have a greater risk than women until the age of 55. After 55, women have a higher risk.
• Ethnic group – In Western countries, compared to white Europeans or Americans, Afro-Caribbeans or Afro-Americans develop high blood pressure at an earlier age, and it is usually more severe at any age. Within Europe, individuals of Eastern European descent have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure than other groups.
Risk Factors You Can Control
• Being overweight
• Being physically inactive
• Drinking too much alcohol
• Eating too much salt (sodium)
• Taking oral contraceptives
Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you’re feeling fine. If your blood pressure is normal, you can work with your health care team to keep it that way. If your blood pressure is too high, you can take steps to lowering your blood pressure and help reduce your risk for related health problems. Next week I’ll share some more information on HBP diagnosis and treatment.