The change that people will die from cardiac disease has fallen dramatically by well over half since the 1960s. Even the risk for people over 70 is only about half what it was. Better prevention, including lifestyle changes and better treatments, seem to have caused the fall.
High blood cholesterol accounts for about 40 percent of all coronary heart disease, high blood pressure for about 25 percent and smoking for 15 percent. Other risk factors are a family history of heart disease, cardiac problems, diabetes, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle.
High blood pressure causes nearly 10 percent of the problems which make people visit their doctor. Raised blood pressure is a major risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. The higher the blood pressure, the higher is the risk.
Reducing blood pressure also reduces the risk of kidney disease. There is a strong tendency for high blood pressure to be inherited. Smokers with high blood pressure have three to four times the risk of a heart attack compared with non-smokers.
Fortunately, it is often possible to reduce your blood pressure. It’s heartening to learn how easy it is to avoid the risks of high blood pressure. Here are seven ways of reducing blood pressure:
- Have regular exercise lasting 30 minutes three times a week.
- Reduce, your salt intake.
- Lose excess weight.
- Eat plenty of fish, fruit and vegetables.
- Reduce your intake of saturated fats.
- Keep alcohol to two or less drinks per day.
- A variety of blood-pressure reducing drugs are available.
People who exercise regularly are one-third less likely to get high blood pressure. Someone who is a couch potato and who decides to begin regular exercise, will get some reduction in their blood pressure within a week.
The kind of exercise needed is simple. Strolling, eventually building up to brisk walking, or cycling, swimming, jogging, dancing, active gardening and using stairs are all effective.
A minimum of three exercise sessions a week each lasting about 30 minutes seems to give the optimum reduction in blood pressure. More exercise achieves only a small additional benefit.
Experiments have shown that using an exercise bike at 60-70 percent of maximum capacity, for 30 minutes three times a week, lowers blood pressure by the same amount as can be achieved using medication.
How exercise produces its immediate effect is not known. The exercise increases the overall work capacity and strength of the heart. In the long run, structural change to the heart can occur, so that trained athletes have enlarged hearts.
A person with high blood pressure may also get changes to their heart. There is often an increase in the thickness of the wall of the left ventricle. At first sight, this might appear to be a good thing, but unfortunately it happens in such a way as to make the ventricle chamber smaller than before.
In contrast, regular aerobic exercise, although it too produces a slight increase in the ventricle wall thickness, produces a large increase in the volume or the chamber.
Reducing your salt intake will also reduce blood pressure. Cutting salt intake to less than 200mg a day will usually produce a marked fall in blood pressure. This is not as easy to do as it sounds, because many canned and commercially prepared foods are relatively high in salt.
Ready-cooked frozen meals, for example, contain well in excess of this amount of salt. Blood pressure can be helped in other ways. Most people can lower their blood pressure by reducing excess weight. It can also be lowered by a diet high in fruit, vegetables and fish. Reducing your saturated fat intake will help even further.
Reducing alcohol to two drinks or less, a day, can produce a substantial fall in blood pressure in some people. A wide variety of drugs are available to reduce blood pressure. Beta blockers are probably the safest for people not suffering from asthma or air passage problems.
To make sure your blood pressure is measured accurately, the measurement needs to be done carefully after you have rested quietly for a few minutes. Both arms should be used to get readings. If the readings are high they should be checked on two or three other occasions.
Blood pressure normally falls during pregnancy, although the most common medical complication of pregnancy is high blood pressure.
About 10 percent of pregnant women get high blood pressure. It is more common in the second half of the pregnancy and is often indicated by an increase in the uric acid level in the blood. The blood pressure will usually return to normal within a few weeks of the birth.
The higher the blood pressure becomes, the greater is the risk to both mother and baby. While there has been a marked fall in deaths from high blood pressure during pregnancy, it still poses a distinct risk to mother and baby.
The main risk to the mother is a cerebral hemorrhage or convulsions and coma. Both mother and baby should be carefully monitored and any marked rise in blood pressure is a warning signal. Swelling of the face and hands is often a sign of this.
If lood pressure becomes high during pregnancy, it is important for the mother to have a lot of rest and minimal activity and to also avoid stress. This may mean giving up full-time work but it will reduce the risk of premature labour.
Conclusion: In the race toward a healthy mind and body, cardiac diet and sensible lifestyle changes are the best way to keep your blood pressure as normal as possible.