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Defeating Disease - High Blood Pressure

Defeating Disease -  High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure describes the pressure in the main blood vessel in your arm, which stems from the heart.

How is it measured?

It is measured both when the heart is actually beating (systolic pressure – the first measurement) and between beats (the resting rate, or diastolic pressure – the second measurement). It is given as two figures, eg 120/80.

A device called a sphygmomanometer is used. An inflatable cuff is wrapped around your upper arm. When inflated the cuff stops the blood flow in the main blood vessel in your arm. The nurse then watches a gauge in the devicer and listens through a stethoscope as the air in the cuff is released. When the first sound of the heartbeat is heard, the systolic pressure is recorded. When the sound disappears, the diastolic pressure is recorded.

Why is blood pressure important?

Blood pressure is an indicator of general health. A rise in blood pressure means your heart is overworking which can put a strain on your circulatory system. On the other hand a fall can affect your organs. It is important your blood pressure is kept within the normal limits.

What is a healthy blood pressure?

A healthy blood pressure is in the range 90/50 to 120/80. Blood pressure varies throughout the day, and your levels of physical exertion and stress cause it to change, too. Blood pressure should be checked under resting conditions.

A diagnosis of high blood pressure (hypertension) isn’t normally made unless a high reading is measured on three separate occasions – usually over three months.

Classification

Systolic blood pressure

Diastolic blood pressure

Normal Less than 120 and less than 80
Pre-hypertension 120-139 or 80-89
Stage 1 hypertension 140-159 or 90-99
Stage 2 hypertension More than 160 or more than100

High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes – the higher the pressure the greater the risk.

Around one in three men and women in the UK have high blood pressure.

What is the role of diet in causing high blood pressure?

Blood pressure rises as we get older but some people defy this seemingly inevitable development.  Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, a low fat (especially saturated animal fat) and low salt diet, quitting smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol consumed will all have an effect.

Even allowing for all that, the blood pressure of vegetarians doesn’t increase in the same way as meat eaters – in fact it goes up little with age. It’s not surprising, then, that a vegetarian diet can be used to treat high blood pressure. It is the totality of the vegetarian diet that works not any specific ingredient.

Which strategies are effective in helping to prevent or treat high blood pressure?

Many studies have found that changing to a low-fat vegetarian diet can significantly lower blood pressure. The switch can also reduce the distressing symptoms associated with hypertension, according to a Swedish study.