All You need to Know about Hypertension(High Blood Pressure) and How To Avoid It.

Our blood pressures tend to rise, as we age. How do we avoid this observation?

Blood flows to the various parts of the body under pressure from the regular pumping activity of the heart, through the blood vessels.

The very muscular heart contracts to push blood and relaxes to receive blood, to and from the various parts of the body, through the arteries and veins.

The pressure in the arteries, when the heart is pushing blood, is known as Systolic Blood Pressure. The pressure in the arteries, when the heart relaxes to receive blood, is known as Diastolic Blood Pressure.

Blood Pressure measurements are usually taken on the upper arm (the upper arms are at the same level as the position of the heart, in the body) everybody needs to know their numbers.

If you have just drunk coffee, smoked or finished exercising, you must wait for a minimum of 30 minutes before taking the BP measurement. Once again, I must emphasize: everyone needs to know their numbers

BLOOD PRESSURE Classification:
Normal blood pressure is 120/80, or lower. (Ideal blood pressure is 110/70 or lower)

Elevated blood pressure is 120-129/80
Stage1 Hypertension, the pressure is between 130-139, systolic, and 80-90, diastolic

Stage 2 Hypertension, the pressure is 140 or more, for systolic and 90 or more, for diastolic


If you want to enjoy a healthy life, the first thing to do is: maintain a healthy blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure damages the smaller blood vessels and other body organs including the Eyes, Kidneys, Heart, and Brain

The following conditions have been associated with the uncontrolled High blood pressure

EYES: Visual impairment and blindness
KIDNEY: persistent kidney injury leads to eventual Kidney failure. High blood pressure is a major cause of kidney injury and kidney failure.

BRAIN: Hypertension is the number one cause of stroke. If you want to avoid stroke, control your blood pressure.

Some Dementias are associated with high blood pressure

HEART: As the heart works hard to push blood to the various parts of the body under sustained high pressure, the heart muscles, initially get bulkier, and then weakens, leading to Heart dysfunction, and eventual Heart failure. The symptoms of heart failure include getting tired easily, leg swelling and puffiness, cough and not being able to lay flat in bed.

For the average person, no definite cause of high blood pressure is found. In the elderly, narrowing of the kidney arteries and other blood flow abnormalities could lead to high blood pressure( Hypertension).

There are certain risk factors that could raise one’s blood pressure.

  1. Dietary salt intake, Maggi cubes, salted fish do have so much sodium in them, and eating these regularly could lead to an elevation in blood pressure. We should not forget, that most blacks are genetically salt sensitive and increasing their salt intake could lead to blood pressure elevation. (Salt sensitivity is found in 73% of black patients with high blood pressure, and 36% of blacks who have normal blood pressure).
  2. Excess body weight. Increase in Blood pressure is directly proportional to one’s body mass.
  3. Inactivity leads to weight gain and stiffening of blood vessels
  4. Diabetes and high blood pressure do share common risk factors

There are 3 proven ways to lower high blood pressures.

  1.  DIET: A diet low in sodium, and high in calcium, potassium, magnesium and Flavonoids.
  2. ACTIVE LIFESTYLE: Regular exercises prevent the development of high blood pressure.
  3. MEDICATIONS. Several and different classes of medications have been used to control blood pressure.

The pressure in the blood vessels drops when the vessels are dilated. The dilatation is due to relaxation of the elastic fibres and muscles in the vessel walls. The pressure gets high when the vessels are constricted.

Blood Pressure lowering dietary changes can bring blood pressure numbers to a healthy level

Let us begin with dietary sodium. Eating a lot of sodium (especially in blacks) is linked with high blood pressure and problems in the heart, kidneys and blood vessels. Reducing sodium in the diet, can prevent high blood pressure in those at risk for the disease, and can help control blood pressure.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

This is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that is designed to help treat or prevent hypertension.

The DASH diet encourages people to decrease the sodium in the diet, and eat a variety of foods rich in minerals that help lower blood pressure, such as Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium.

The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, a low-fat dairy moderate amount of Whole grain, Fish, Poultry and Nuts

For Sodium, not more than 1500mg of sodium should be taken in our diet, daily.

Stop using Maggi cube, Maggi cube has so much sodium and hydrogenated oils. Salted fish might also contain a hidden amount of high sodium in it. Some Kenkey is prepared with too much salt, for good taste.

Canned and most processed food has hidden amount of high sodium, so avoid them, and eat fresh, naturally prepared food, if possible. Always read the labelling, to find the amount of Na/sodium in the canned food.

    Potassium relaxes walls of blood vessels to reduce blood pressure and protects against cramping. Dietary Sources of potassium: Coconut water, Plantain, Banana, Potato, Tomato Green vegetable.                         Caution: For those with kidney diseases, potassium must be consumed with caution., their kidneys might not be able to handle potassium, well, in the body.
    Magnesium is found in whole grains, beans, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. Magnesium improves blood flow, another factor associated with lowered blood pressure.
    Calcium helps blood vessels to tighten and relax when they need to Calcium is found in Fishbones, green leafy vegetables
    Dietary nitrates are found in abundance in vegetables. Inorganic dietary nitrates, after digestion, are converted to the vasodilator NITRIC OXIDE. Nitrates lower blood pressure in both healthy individuals and those with high blood pressure.

Theobroma means “food of the gods”
The KUNA INDIANS, who live along the coast of Panama, have a very low incidence of high blood pressure and no increase in blood pressure as they age. They live longer than other Panamanians. They drink cocoa, a lot.

Cocoa has minerals: magnesium, potassium, calcium and copper. The bitterness of cocoa comes from their Flavonoids. Raw cocoa beans have a bitter taste, but edible. Apart from benefits to brain and nerve functions Flavonoids promote vasodilation by increasing Nitric Oxide synthesis in the blood vessels. You can drink raw cocoa 2-3 times a day. You can also add a handful of cocoa nibs, to your meals, daily. You should have a healthy blood pressure if you live in Ghana. No excuses for the average person.

Flavonoids are found in other fruits and vegetables, (but not as high as in cocoa). Flavonoids are susceptible to damage by heat, so it is better to eat them raw. Banana, berries, Citrus, watermelon, onion, sweet potato; they all have flavonoids

Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables decrease Systolic BP 3-6mmHg and diastolic BP 1-3mmHg

Grains include Bread, Cereal, Rice Pasta., Sorghum, Millet, Corn

Whole grains have more fibre and nutrients than refined grain. Example, Use brown rice instead of white rice; Whole wheat instead of regular pasta, Whole grain Bread instead of white bread.

Grains are naturally low in fat. Keep them that way by avoiding Butter, Cream and Cheese sauce.

Tomato, Carrots, Broccoli, Sweet potato, green and other vegetables are filled with fibre, Vitamins and such minerals like Potassium, Magnesium

Fruits are packed with fibre potassium, magnesium, and low in fat. Citrus, Coconut water, Bananas, Mangoes, Pawpaw, Plantain (A slice of plantain(148grams) has 739mg of potassium, 55mg of magnesium)

Drinking too much alcohol can raise the blood pressure. Example drinking 3 units of Alcohol daily for 3 months raises the blood pressure.

A unit of Alcohol is 10 ml or 8gm of pure alcohol, (the amount an adult can process in an hour) In general 1 drink is the equivalent of 12oz beer, 4oz wine, 1oz hard Liquor (100%proof) (Akpeteshie comes to mind).

To avoid raising the blood pressure, Males should limit alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks per day, Female, not more than 1 drink per day.

Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically.

It can also cause Heart failure, lead to Stroke, and produce irregular heartbeats.

Too much alcohol contributes to Cancer, Obesity, Alcoholism, Suicides and Accidents.

An active lifestyle is key in both primary and secondary prevention of high blood pressure.

A recent study of people living in Jackson, Mississippi, USA, indicates that African-Americans are less likely to develop high blood pressure if they are physically active throughout the week. (People of African descent, have a higher incidence of hypertension, in western countries, than their cousins on the African mainland).

The lead author, Dr Diaz, Columbus university medical centre in New York, stated: “If you’re worried about high blood pressure, one of the things you can do to prevent it is physical activity and exercise”

The most beneficial type of exercise was physical activity from sports and exercise-not from home- or work-related tasks like housekeeping or physical labour.

A minimum of 150 minutes per week (30 minutes most days of the week) of doing something like brisk walking is required. Running, Jogging, skipping rope, aerobic steps are better. Do what you like best for a minimum of 30 minutes each day.

For the overweight, active weight loss helps to improve blood pressure.

Active lifestyle works well for those with elevated blood pressure and some of those in stage1

Medications help reduce blood pressure through several mechanisms.

1.) Eliminating Sodium from the body. The water pills do this.

2.) Dilating blood vessels: the calcium channel blockers, Hydralazine

3.) Blocking hormones production and nerves important in regulating blood pressure

4.) Slowing the heart rate and decreasing heart muscle contraction.

Most of these medications are used in combination to reduce blood pressure, effectively

For stage 1 high blood pressure, the Thiazide medication is usually adequate. The thiazides do not lower blood pressure in those with normal blood pressure

For BLACK PERSONS WITH HYPERTENSION, the dihydropyridine class of Calcium channel blockers, like AMLODIPINE, NIFEDIPINE work better

PREGNANCY and Blood pressure medications:
1.) Labetalol.
2.) Hydralazine. These 2 medications work great in pregnant women.

Other medications could be used.
However, avoid medications that act on the renin-angiotensin systems (RAS) including the ACE inhibitors, ARBs.

These medications can cause kidney damage to unborn babies.

Examples of such medications include those medications with their generic names ending with -pril: (captopril, enalapril, and –sartan: (losartan, candesartan)

ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION and Blood Pressure medications.

Most men with hypertension, worry about erectile dysfunction when they take blood pressure medicines.

Diuretics: “Water Pills” decrease blood flow to the penis, making it difficult to get an erection.

Also, by decreasing Zinc levels and therefore, testosterone levels, diuretics lower the sex drive.

Beta-blockers affect some of the nerves responsible for causing an erection.

Apart from these, there have been complaints with almost all the blood pressure lowering medications. The ARBs like Losartan, candesartan, do have the least complaints, and they are better for patients who complain of ED while on certain BP medications.

It may take several days to several weeks after discontinuing a blood pressure medication for an erection to return.

Avoid the Beta blockers like metoprolol, propranolol in the setting of Asthma and severe COPD.

QUESTION: How can I avoid hypertension, since hypertension runs in my family?

ANSWER: True hypertension can run in your family. However, dietary and lifestyle choices, have allowed many people with a family history of high blood pressure, to avoid it themselves.

QUESTION: Since I feel fine, I do not need to worry about high blood pressure, right?

ANSWER: Hypertension, has been described as “silent killer”. Many people have high blood pressure, without knowing it. You may not be aware that it is damaging your arteries, heart, kidneys, brain and other organs. You must know your numbers (for both systolic and diastolic blood pressures). Do not make the mistake of assuming any specific symptoms will let you know there is a problem.

QUESTION: I check my blood pressure at my Doctor’s office, do I need to check my blood pressure at home?

ANSWER: Because blood pressure fluctuates, home monitoring and recording blood pressure readings can provide valuable information to your Doctor, to either maintain or “adjust” your medications.

QUESTION: I was diagnosed with hypertension, but I have been maintaining lower readings. Can I stop taking my medications?

ANSWER: Hypertension is a lifelong disease. Partner with your Doctor to reach agreement goals and enjoy the benefits of better health. It may take, up to 2 weeks after stopping medications, to observe a rise in blood pressure.

QUESTION: I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Can I use herbal treatment?

ANSWER: Most plants contain products that relax blood vessels. You need to monitor your blood pressure at home, to see if such therapy is effective. Most herbal treatment, are considered, blood pressure supplements.

Source: Dr Alex K Sarkodie

%d bloggers like this: