What to do if you are having headache along with tinnitus (hissing or buzzing in the ears) and fainting? Go to the doctor and have your blood pressure checked because you might have hypertension. Hypertension is a chronic medical condition of elevated blood pressure that taxes the heart and it may result in damage to vital organs of the body such as brain, eyes and heart. Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on arteries and veins, which depends upon the rate and force of contraction of heart. Hypertension is a unique medical condition. The normal blood pressure is at or below 120/80 mm Hg. While a high blood pressure is characterized if the blood pressure is consistently above 140/90 mm Hg.
In most of the cases (90%), the cause of hypertension is unknown. This is termed as Primary Hypertension. While the remaining 10% cases are suffering from Secondary Hypertension, in which there is an underlying condition effecting the arteries, kidney or heart that is resulting in an elevated blood pressure.
The question arises that why hypertension is so extensively studied? Why is there so much emphasis in the literature of hypertension? Well, according to a recent research, nearly one billion people (equivalent to 26% of the population) have hypertension worldwide, making it the number one chronic disease in the world today. And not just this, but the prevalence of hypertension is gradually increasing rather than it being abolished. In 1995, it was estimated that about 24% Americans suffer from hypertension. In 2003, shockingly, it increased 5% to 29% Americans despite the Government taking initiatives to help eradicate this menace. Although it has been well established that hypertension is usually common in geriatrics, but recently studies have shown that children aged 8-10 years are being diagnosed along with type II diabetes and high cholesterol.
The question arises that how hypertension can be avoided, which is distinguished as a genetic/hereditary disorder and has been found to be varying among different ethnic groups. It is pertinent to mention here is that along with the above mention factors, diet also has an important influence on the outcome of hypertension. There are some foods which lower blood pressure, like for example celery, cold water fish, broccoli, dandelion, whole-grain oats and black beans, and these natural products have regularly been prescribed by physicians to hypertensive patients. In addition, there are some other foods which may precipitate hypertension, like those which contain alcohol, fats and salts. Hypertensive patients are strictly advised against taking these substances as hemorrhage and stroke may ensue and the outcome may be fatal.
It must be known to the viewer that the process of dietary recommendation in hypertension is complex and has been the focus of several research works over the past 3 to 4 decades. This is mainly because the foods which are commonly advised to avoid complications in hypertension are usually similar to healthy diet recommendations in general. We shall discuss a few of these substances which are more common in our daily diet.
Salt is usually a combination of 40% Sodium and 60% Chloride. The sodium component of salt is important for the maintenance of vital body functions such as controlling the pH of blood, for controlling the amount of water in the body and for muscular contractions. It is commonly present in almost all dietary products, especially in processed foods.
The usual average salt intake for adults, as recommended by researchers, is no more than 6g per day. But the true fact is that most people are at a rate of over 9g per day which, evidently, is increasing the prevalence of hypertension. Reducing salt intake of their patients has been the primary focus of doctors in dealing with hypertension. The target to achieve is less than 6g per day. This can be achieved by reading labels of processed foods and calculating the dosage requirement necessary to maintain a balanced level between adequate nutrition and hypertension. Normally, we use salt to flavor our foods. By using fresh herbs and spices for this purpose, salt intake per day may be reduced to an appropriate level. Soy sauce is very rich in sodium i.e. one teaspoon contains 0.4 g of Sodium which is equivalent to 0.9 g of salt therefore it should be used sparingly.
Care must be taken as to not lessen the salt diet to such an extent that complications arise due to salt deficiency. Although it is very rare as our salt intake is always proficient enough to not result in such complications, occasionally it may give rise to headache, nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, drowsiness, fainting, fatigue and possibly coma.
It should be noted that the sole decrease in salt intake may not prove beneficial in the overall outcome of lower blood pressure, as a combination of other dietary changes are also recommended.
Everyday most of us enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and we find it pleasantly refreshing. Exceptions are there where coffee/tea plays an integral part in one life. Caffeine is an ingredient of both coffee and tea, whereby it is present in excess particularly in the former.
Caffeine’s central action is stimulation of the CNS, thereby increasing alertness, and also of the heart, thereby resulting in a short term increase in blood pressure. Research is inconclusive on its long term effect of blood pressure. It should be noted that this effect of caffeine on blood pressure is usually when caffeine is taken in excess amount. A single cup of coffee usually contains 200 mg of caffeine. If a hypertensive patient drinks two or more cups of coffee, then it might lead to precipitation of hypertension.
Sometimes people ignore the fact that caffeine is also a vital ingredient in many other preparations, especially weight loss pills and chocolates. Therefore care should be taken to read the label and note the presence or absence of caffeine in these preparations.
Though it may seem harmless, but sugary beverages have been found to increase blood pressure. For every extra can of these drinks consumed per day, incremental rise in blood pressure occurs. A normal dose of 355 ml has been suggested by researchers. A precise mechanism is yet unclear, but it is believed that excess of sugar in blood results in the disruption of blood vessel tone and salt levels in the body. This is predominant in those people who consume an excess of salt and sugar and it is already a known fact that salt increases blood pressure. Therefore it is beneficial if the intake of sugary beverages is in moderation as part of a balanced diet.