Because I wrote about diabetes last week, I saw it fitting to write about this particular disease. Because like diabetes, it usually tends to occur among older people. Like diabetes, it is caused by certain unhealthy behaviours. And like diabetes, it is a leading cause of premature deaths worldwide. As in, it has killed millions of people. So today, we are going to learn about *drum roll please* HYPERTENSION.
Yes, readers. Just so you know, Hypertension and Diabetes are really close. They love each other so much, they follow themselves. So if someone has hypertension, Diabetes is more likely to follow, and vice versa. Since, they love to follow each other, I felt hypertension will feel really betrayed, if I didn’t blog about it after blogging about diabetes last week.
Hypertension is also called high blood pressure. We have arteries that are like pipes in our body. The heart pumps blood through these arteries to reach other parts of the body. When the arteries are so narrow, the heart has to pump harder so that enough blood can pass through. Obviously, since too much blood is trying to pass through a narrow (non-metallic) pipe, it will exert much pressure on the walls of the pipe. Hence, high blood pressure. Hence, hypertension.
To diagnose hypertension, there are two important numbers. You will see something like this: 140/90. Well, the number on top is systolic blood pressure and the number below is diastolic blood pressure. If either of the two numbers are above 140 or 90, it is hypertension. Emphasis on either. If your blood pressure is less than 120 or 80, then it is normal. And if your blood pressure is between 120 -140 or 80 -90, then you are pre-hypertensive. It means hypertension might soon come visiting. Please, don’t open that window.
Since, we know what hypertension is, let’s start by debunking some of those really popular myths about hypertension. People believe some false things about hypertension. Poor hypertension. So misunderstood. Anyway, if these myths are not corrected, it means people will keep on doing things to cause hypertension and will not even know they are doing it.
Myth 1. Thinking too much causes hypertension.
Where do I begin with this myth? It is so popular In Nigeria. Many of us truly believe, if we are not stressed, we will not have hypertension. You may hear statements like “I can’t have hypertension, because I don’t have anything to think about.” Or the most popular one, “My son, Why are you so stubborn? Do you want to give me hypertension?”
Well, sorry to say this. But poor diet and lack of physical activity are some of the major causes of hypertension. I know, you might be tired of hearing about diet and exercise. But the truth is, they prevent so many diseases. One of which is hypertension. By reducing the amount of salt intake and fried foods you consume, you are pushing hypertension far away. Then, eat more fruits, vegetables etc. You know the drill. But, especially, reduce consumption of salt and fatty foods.
Exercising is also very important. Some of you might be like, “But when you exercise, your heart beats faster. So you will have high blood pressure.” False. At that instant, your blood pressure will rise. But it will go back down when you rest. With regular exercise, you will be able to maintain your blood pressure or reduce it if it is high. It reduces the fat, helps your body eliminate salt, and activates some hormonal responses that lower blood pressure. See why it’s so important?
Those of you who go to the gym and build your muscles, so that you can wear tight “bodyhugs” and attract hot babes with your six packs. Well, you should know that body building exercises are not enough. You need cardio exercises, like running, skipping, bicycling etc. Don’t think because you exercise, you should eat whatever you like. Because if you have excess fat, the excess fat will cause its damage, before the exercise will be able to burn it all. So, diet is very essential, exercise or no exercise. Got it?
Obesity is also a major cause of hypertension. See where diet and exercise also come in? By losing weight, you have seriously decreased the likelihood of being hypertensive. Obesity and hypertension also love each other. In short, their relationship is so complicated, explaining it will take so long. Just know they are related through fat, salt retention and hormones. Suffice it to say, Obesity is important when it comes to hypertension.
Myth 2. Thinking too much causes hypertension.
Yes. You read it correctly. This myth is so popular, I had to repeat it. Because, maybe by repeating it, it might have a better success rate of being debunked. Although as humans, when we are stressed, we may tend to over eat, drink alcohol or smoke to help us deal with our worries. These behaviours are what will cause hypertension, not the stress.
Tobacco has so many chemicals that are bad for the health, that it should be of no surprise that smoking can cause hypertension. As for those who do not smoke, but have friends who smoke, guess what? While you are gisting with your friends about the latest football match, and they are smoking, exhaling out the smoke with such swag, you are inhaling it. You are also inhaling the smoke that comes from the ends of the cigarette. And this is very very bad for you and your blood pressure.
Alcohol consumers need to reduce or stop their alcoholic intake, because it spikes the blood pressure so much. Especially heavy alcohol consumers. Because alcohol also contains many harmful ingredients that are bad for blood pressure.
So when stressed, sleep, relax, think of how to solve whatever is worrying you. Because smoking and drinking won’t reduce your stress levels. They will only give you stress when you are struggling with hypertension in later years.
Myth 3: If I have hypertension, I will know
No, my dear. You won’t. You won’t feel your heart beat faster or have fever. Hypertension is a silent killer. It doesn’t have symptoms. It is like a thief, or an assassin. It will sneak in through that window that bad diet, lack of exercise, drinking or smoking has opened. Once it sneaks in, your blood pressure will just keep on increasing and increasing, and you won’t even know. Until it gets so high, and it just attacks or strikes. And by that I mean heart attack or stroke. It can also cause kidney failure, blindness and brain impairment.
That is why you need to check your blood pressure and know where you stand. Then, do what you can to prevent it. Because early detection is important.
For those with hypertension, by carrying out the lifestyle modifications I have mentioned, you can manage it. If it still remains uncontrolled, then go to a doctor and start taking prescribed medications.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I am sure hypertension will be glad that you now understand it better. Or maybe it won’t. Because it knows that since you understand it, you will close that window. Right? Right?