The heart pumps blood into the arteries. The blood pumped into the arteries presses against the arterial walls. The amount of blood pumped by the heart and the pressure exerted by the blood against the arterial walls result in blood pressure. The narrower the arteries, the greater the pressure exerted by the blood against the arterial walls, and the more blood pressure. A higher volume of blood pumped by the heart results in elevated blood pressure.
Blood pressure consists of systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the blood pressure when the heart contracts to pump blood into the arteries. Diastolic pressure is the blood pressure when the heart relaxes between successive beats. A blood pressure reading gives systolic pressure followed by diastolic pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm of Hg (mercury).
What is hypertension?
Blood pressure being regularly higher than normal means the person is suffering from high blood pressure. Clinically it is called hypertension. High blood pressure in a single reading does not indicate hypertension. If the blood pressure reading is high on three separate occasions over a period of 3 months, then the indication is hypertension.
Uncontrolled hypertension leads to several serious medical complications such as heart failure, stroke, aneurysm, heart attack, kidney damage, dementia, vision loss, and more due to damage to the blood vessels.
Root Causes of High Blood Pressure
Understanding the various root causes of high blood pressure is necessary before learning about the various measures to avoid high blood pressure. Some of the top causes are –
Cigarette smoking is one of the major root causes of high blood pressure. The nicotine present in cigarette smoke elevates blood pressure and heart rate. Furthermore, it also narrows the walls of the arteries, leading to an increase in blood pressure and the risk of developing heart diseases and stroke.
Passive smoking is also a risk factor for high blood pressure. Passive smoking means regular exposure to cigarette smoke without actually smoking yourself.
Weighing much more than normal or obesity is also one of the major root causes of high blood pressure. The greater the weight, the more is the amount of blood required to be pumped by the heart to supply oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. Thus, in an obese person, a high volume of blood flow through the arteries results in high pressure on the arterial walls, leading to high blood pressure.
Lack of Physical Activity
A sedentary lifestyle without any physical activity causes high blood pressure. This is because lack of physical activity results in high heart rates. A high heart rate means the heart contracts more, resulting in more blood being pumped into the arteries. A higher blood volume exerts more pressure on the arterial walls and elevates the blood pressure.
Moreover, lack of physical activity increases weight and raises the risk of obesity.
Too Much Alcohol Consumption
Excess alcohol consumption comes among the major root causes of high blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol raises the levels of hormone renin in the blood. Renin constricts the blood vessels and reduces the elimination of fluids from the body. The combination of vascular construction and excess fluid raises blood pressure.
Excess alcohol raises the blood pressure through other actions as well. These include an increase in cortisol levels, calcium levels, and a decrease in baroreceptor sensitivity.
Too Much Salt in The Diet
Excessive salt consumption progressively narrows the arteries, which elevates blood pressure. In addition, to compensate for less blood flow through the narrow arteries, the heart pumps more blood, increasing blood pressure. Thus, eating too much salt is also one of the root causes of high blood pressure.
Chronic stress leads to hypertension. When you are stressed, your heart rate is high because the heart contracts more, increasing blood pressure. Stress over a prolonged period of time causes hypertension.
Genetics and Family History of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is linked to genes and tends to run in families. Thus, people with a family history of hypertension are at risk.
The risk of developing hypertension increases with age. For men, the risk is higher at 64 and above. In the case of women, the risk is higher after the age of 65.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Renal artery stenosis is the narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to the kidneys. Due to low blood flow, the kidneys release hormones that cause the body to retain sodium and water. Excess fluid increases blood pressure.
Adrenal and Thyroid Disorders
Adrenal diseases which disrupt the normal levels of adrenal hormones controlling the blood pressure result in hypertension. The thyroid gland also plays a major role in controlling blood pressure, and disorders affecting it cause hypertension.
Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which the person stops breathing multiple times during sleep due to collapsed passages in the upper airway. It causes hypertension along with a number of other health problems.
Measures to Eliminate the Root Causes of High Blood Pressure
At least 30 minutes of exercise each day eliminates the risk of developing multiple health problems, including hypertension.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet consisting of whole grains, pulses, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds keeps blood pressure under control and prevents hypertension.
Limit the Amount of Alcohol You Drink
Excessive consumption of alcohol is one of the main root causes of high blood pressure. Thus, limiting alcohol consumption is necessary to avoid hypertension. For men, 2 standard drinks per day is recommended. For women, this number is 1.
Reduce Sodium in Your Diet
Limiting sodium or salt intake is necessary to prevent hypertension. The maximum amount of sodium that can be consumed per day is 5-6 grams.
Cigarette smoking elevates blood pressure and also increases the risk of heart diseases. Thus, it is necessary to quit smoking to avoid hypertension.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Caffeine present in tea, coffee, and carbonated drinks elevates blood pressure. Hence, excess consumption of such caffeinated beverages must be avoided.
Reduce Your Stress
Stress increases blood pressure. Thus, if you suffer from chronic stress, practice yoga and meditation to reduce your stress levels.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home
Hypertension often sets in without symptoms or has symptoms similar to many diseases. Thus, monitor your blood pressure at home regularly to detect any spikes.
Understanding the root causes of high blood pressure and adopting a lifestyle that eliminates those causes is the key to staying protected from hypertension.