As was discussed last week, hypertension is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Prevention is always better than cure and this is especially apparent with hypertension. Obesity, alcohol, smoking and high cholesterol are the leading risk factors contributing to death in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an estimated more than 400,000 deaths annually. Instead of dealing with the problem when it arises- why not just prevent it from occurring in the 1st place?
There are several risk factors when it comes to hypertension, some are in our control and some are not.
Age is one of the factors that we unfortunately can do nothing about, as we age our pressure increases, experts are not entirely sure as to why it happens but it is clear that as we age our arteries become stiffer (atherosclerosis) which can result in abnormally high systolic blood pressure (the top number) with normal diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).
This one affects us all in the Caribbean- our race! High blood pressure is particularly common amongst black people, often developing at an earlier age than it does in other races. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack and kidney failure, also are more common in black people. Like age, there is no clear reason as to why this is, some experts think that social and economic factors are a main concern.
Now this is one we can 100% do something about, inactivity has been linked to hypertension, and it also increases the risk of being overweight- which is also another risk factor. So get off your couch and start to go for daily walks to help prevent you blood pressure from becoming elevated.
Smoking immediately raises your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls, causing your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. So to avoid this all-together throw away any packs of cigarettes you currently own and start fresh from today. Help your family and friends stay hypertension free too by quitting, because second-hand smoke can also increase your blood pressure.
Be careful what you are putting into your food, having too much salt in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. In the same way that too much salt can affect your pressure, having too little potassium can also have an effect on your pressure. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood- causing an increase in pressure. So make sure you are getting in as much leafy greens, potatoes, squash, avocados, and bananas as possible.
In the Caribbean drinking alcohol seems to be a common trend, but heavy drinking can damage your heart, drinking too much can elevate your pressure. If you are going to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for females, and up to two drinks a day for men.
When you hear in recent news that stress is quickly becoming the new silent killer, this is why. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure, and combining this with other lifestyle factors, like drinking and smoking will only increase problems with high blood pressure.