LIFESTYLE ADJUSTMENT

once hypertension has been detected in an individual, the doctor has to decide the treatment. In mild or borderline cases, drug treatment may not be necessary and you may be prescribed a sedative or tranquilizer for a few weeks. In case of secondary hypertension, of course, the high blood pressure can be cured by removing the main cause that brought about hypertension. In the case of essential hypertension, you will certainly need drug therapy. Your doctor may prescribe a drug or combination of drugs and today almost all cases of essential hypertension can be controlled by drugs. Once, the pressure has been brought down to acceptable levels by the drugs, you will realize that you have to live with this disease for the rest of your life. This act need not frighten you, because if you follow certain precautions, in addition to your doctor’s treatment, you can lead a completely normal life.

Diet Control

Everyone knows that food is important for health but it can also be the cause of ill-health. The food we eat contain proteins, fats, carbohydrates, salts, minerals and vitamins.

As we have seen, atherosclerosis of the arteries can lead to high blood pressure. High levels of cholesterol and fat have been implicated in the occurrence of atherosclerosis. Therefore, it is important to have a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet. The level of cholesterol and fats in the diet. Of the fats, the unsaturated fats are considered that they do not to increase the level of cholesterol. Hence any person showing blood-fat disturbances will benefit from a change of diet.

Go Easy On Salt

One of the major factors in avoiding of controlling hypertension is the proper food intake. Several aspects of our diet are important.

Excessive salt or, more specifically, sodium which comprises 40% of pure salt has been linked with high blood pressure. Salt is largely responsible for retaining water in our body.

We need only about 200 milligrams of sodium per day, yet most adults consume 4000-8000 mg of sodium per day. One tea-spoon of salt contains about 2130 mg of sodium.

When cutting down on the salt used in cooking, do not do it suddenly, Instead, cut it gradually. Just as you learned to like salt, you can also unlearn it. It may take a month or two, but you will gradually appreciate the difference. Many people contend that salt actually masks the fine taste of many foods. Therefore, once you have licked your taste for salt, you may actually enjoy the taste for your food more. Some researchers believe the taste buds may actually become more sensitive with less salt in the diet.

Regulation of Salt Intake

Salt is an essential part of our body and is present in a certain concentration in the body fluids, in all the cells as well as in the blood. Our body constantly maintains the salt balance by excreting excess salt through the action of the kidneys. Excessive salt as we all know, is detrimental to us in certain conditions such as damaged heart, high blood pressure and diseased kidneys.

Most of us tend to eat for more salt than is required by the body. Actually, most of the food we eat, have enough natural salt to be adequate for our body’s needs. Yet we add more salt during cooking to make the food ‘tasty’. Furthermore, modern convenience foods have extra salt added for preservation and other purpose. All this adds up to a dangerous situation for persons with essential hypertension.

Table salt or common salt normally used for eating is a chemical compound called sodium chloride of which about 40% is sodium. And this sodium is the part of salt that is harmful to the heart and kidneys. In case an individual finds it difficult to consume a saltless diet there are various salt substitutes available which contain potassium instead of sodium e.g. potassium chloride. But it is the opinion of some doctors that if you stop using excessive salt you will not miss it after a short time. Others recommend the use of lemon juice, mustard, vinegar and other spices to mask the lack of salt. Reducing the salt content in a diet or even omitting it altogether, has no ill-effects upon our health. It has been observed by scientists that when salt was not available to people living in many parts of the world, they were none the worse for it. In fact, they may have enjoyed better health for lack of it.

Control of Weight

Overweight or obesity is a condition caused by excess fat in the body. Fat is normally stored in the body, under the skin, and internally in the chest and abdomen. When the body is starved of fat or when it needs extra energy, the stored fat is used to release the calories for body processes. As everyone knows, there are many harmful effects of obesity. High blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes are found to be more common in obese persons. An overweight person usually becomes so due to excessive intake of calories in the form of food and alcohol. Therefore, if you are overweight, you should go on a strict, reducing diet in addition to a saltless one.

Loosing weight is not a simple as it sounds and at first you will need a lot of will power to change your eating habits and stick to a new diet. It may help if you set  goal for yourself before you start dieting, such as loosing a certain number of kilograms of stabilizing your blood pressure at acceptable levels and so on. It is not advisable to go on a crash diet in order to bring down your weight drastically. Instead you should try and reduce gradually preferably with the guidance of your doctor, so that he can also control your cholesterol and fat intake.

Stress

Stress is the term normally used to describe physical or mental tension produced during many conditions in life. Stress depends on two things – environmental factors which exert mental pressure and our ability to cope with such pressures. If the pressures are too great or our ability to cope is inadequate , then stress results. Thus stress can occur where there is dislocation of normal family life, during emotional crises, loss of work, change of occupation, and after disturbing events such as a bereavement or a serious accident or a divorce. Anxiety, overwork, inadequate sleep and diet or even bacterial or viral attack are all stress-factors.

Thus stress may also occur in competitive, ambitious individuals or in nervous, anxious humans. Stress is difficult to define or measure or investigate and it manifests itself by symptoms of anxiety, tension and irritability. As a result, resistance to bacterial infections is decreased. More important is, as a lot of evidence shows, that emotional stress can sometimes precipitate a coronary heart attack in a person with a weak heart.

Initially, regardless of the forms and causes of stress, the body immediately tries to repair the damage done to it. At the onset of stress, a small gland at the back of the brain, the pituitary starts a protecting action by secreting hormones such as ACTH and STH. These hormones are carried to two small glands above the kidneys called the adrenal glands. Consequently the lining or cortex of these glands begin to produce cortisone and other hormones.

First, proteins obtained from the thymus and lymph glands are broken down to form sugar which supplies immediate energy. The blood sugar rises and the remaining sugar is stored in the liver as starch or glycogen. The blood pressure is increased, minerals are withdrawn from the bones, fat is mobilized from storage depots, a large amount of salt is retained and many other change occur in the body. This stage is called “alarm reaction” and it varies in intensity and in response to the degree of stress.

If the stress is continues, the body responds to the second stage of defense called “the stage of resistance”. Here, the body tries to repair the physical damage of stress by using the materials at hand, from the tissues and the diet. When the person’s diet is adequate, the person can withstand tremendous stress with little obvious harm. If however, the materials for repair are reaches the third stage called “the stage of stages i.e alarm, resistance and exhaustion in a single day when subjected to intense stress such as severe burns, a serious car accident or drastic surgery.

If stress is prolonged, then the thymus and lymph glands begin to shrivel and protein depletion occurs from blood plasma, liver, kidneys and other parts of the body. Stomach ulcers  begin to appear because protein is withdrawn from the stomach walls. Similarly, prolonged stress may effect the lining of the intestines giving rise to symptoms of ulcerative colitis – an inflamation and ulcerative condition of the colon. It has been shown by experiments that during severe stress, the loss of nitrogen in a single day, through the urinary route is equivalent to the amount supplied by four litres of milk. The association between long term stress and high blood pressure is important and may become dangerous.

Any form of stress, can increase the blood pressure. As we have seen, during stress, the body responds to increasing ACTH and cortisone production which raises the blood pressure as one of the ways of fight the emergency. Therefore emotional stresses such as anger or fear causes the pressure to rise by the contraction of the arterial walls. This may hypertension continues as long as the emotional stress exists, provided the point of exhaustion is not reached. If the emotions causing the hypertension are released the blood pressure goes down. If follows therefore, that if you have hypertension, the first important step is to eliminate any unnecessary stress from your life.

Doctors have observed that emotional stress or prolonged anxiety may cause a rise in blood cholesterol and fat and thus contribute to artherosclerosis, as well as coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. For good health therefore, every effort should be made to relax and free yourself from mental strain. The following suggestions could be helpful to relieve stress.

  • Slow down your working speed if you normally work to time, schedules and impossible targets. If necessary, change your job to a less demanding one mentally and emotionally.
  • Relax your body physically at least twice every day. Relax all muscles of the body one by one and go limp. A relax body can help to relax the mind.
  • Bring harmony and order into your personal, domestic and working life. If there are problems and difficulties that you cannot handle alone, then get the help of others such as your family, or your doctor or personal freinds.

Alcohol Intake

Although alcohol has no direct connection with high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke, it is one of the risk-factors that make an individual, prone to atherosclerosis which as we know may lead to the above conditions. Moreover, alcohol has a high calorie content and it also increases the appetite – both conditions which lead to obesity. Therefore alcohol in spite of being not directly implicated might create conditions which may aggravate or cause hypertension. Whereas some doctors believe that alcohol does not interfere  with anti-hypertensive drugs, there are others who feel that alcohol may produce undesirable side-effects when taken during drug therapy.

Cigarette Smoking

Cigarette smoking is one of the major causes of illness and premature death in modern society. It is often the underlying cause of many different and unrelated diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory failure, emphysema, cancer of the throat and bladder, duodenal ulcers etc. The immediate effect of smoking is that the heart-rate accelerates, the blood pressure shoots up and increased amount of blood is pushed out by the heart with every beat. Thus, the total work-load of the heart becomes greater and puts a strain on an already burdened organ. Heavy smoking elevates the blood cholesterol as well as fatty acids and as we have seen, this predisposes as individual to atherosclerosis and other complications.

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