Hypertension or high blood pressure, as it is more commonly known, is regarded as the silent killer. It is a disease of the modern age. The fast pace of life and the mental and physical pressures caused by the industrial and metropolitan environments give rise to psychological tensions. Worry and mental tension increase the adrenaline in the blood stream and this, in turn, causes the pressure of the blood to rise.
The blood which circulates through the arteries within the body supplies every cell with nourishment and oxygen. The force exerted by the heart as it pumps the blood into the large arteries creates a pressure within them and this is called blood pressure. A certain level of blood pressure is thus essential to keep the blood circulating in the body. But when the pressure becomes too high, it results in hypertension which is caused by spasms or the narrowing of the small blood vessels, known as capillaries, throughout the body. This narrowing puts more stress on the heart to pump blood through the blood vessels. Hence, the pressure of the blood to get through rises in proportion to the pressure on the heart.
The blood pressure is measured with an instrument called sphygmomanometer in millimeters of the mercury. The highest pressure reached during each heartbeat is called systolic pressure and the lowest between two beats is known as diastolic pressure. The first gives the pressure of the contraction of the heart as it pushes the blood on its journey through the body and indicates the activity of the heart. The second represents the pressure present in the artery when the heart is relaxed and shows the condition of the blood vessels.
The blood pressure level considered normal is 120/70, but may go up to 140/90 and still be normal. Within this range, the lower the reading, the better. Blood pressure between 140/90, and 160/95 is considered border line area. From 160/96 to 180/144, it is classed as moderate hypertension, while 180/115 upward is considered severe. A raised diastolic pressure is considered more serious than the raised systolic pressure as it has a serious long-term effect.
Mild and moderate hypertension may not produce any symptoms for years. The first symptom may appear in the form of pain in the back of the head and neck on waking in the morning, which soon disappears. Some of the other usual symptoms of hypertension are dizziness, aches and pains in the arms, shoulder region, leg and back, palpitation, pain in the heart region, frequent urination, nose-bleeding, nervous tension and fatigue, crossness, emotional upsets, tiredness and wakefulness.
A person suffering from high blood pressure cannot do any serious work, feels tired and out of sorts all the time. He may experience difficulty in breathing and suffer from dyspepsia. Hypertension, if not eliminated, may cause heart attacks or strokes and other disabilities such as detachment of the retina.
The most important causes of hypertension are stress and a faulty style of living. People who are usually tense suffer from high blood pressure, especially when under stress. If the stress continues for a long period, the pressure may become permanently raised and may not come down even after removal of the stress. An irregular lifestyle, smoking and an excessive intake of intoxicants, tea, coffee, cola drinks and refined foods destroy the natural pace of life. The expulsion of waste and poisonous matter from the body is prevented and the arteries and the veins become slack. Hardening of the arteries, obesity, diabetes and severe constipation also lead to hypertension. Other causes of high blood pressure are excessive intake of pain-killers, table salt, food allergies and eating a high-fat, low-fibre diet and processed foods deficient in essential nutrients.
Drugs do not remove the cause, nor do they cure the condition. All drugs against hypertension without exception, are toxic and have distressing side-effects. They safest way to cure hypertension is to eliminate the poisons from the system which cause it. Persons with high blood pressure should always follow a well-balanced routine of proper diet, exercise and rest.
Diet is of primary importance. Meat and eggs cause blood pressure to rise more than any other food. The pressure is lowered and blood clotting diminished by par-taking a diet with a higher fruit content, lower protein and non-flesh diet. A natural diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of a traditional diet, is helpful in getting rid of the poisons from the body. A hypertension patient should start the process of healing by living on all- fruit diet for atleast a week, and take fruits at five-hourly intervals, thrice a day. He should take juicy fruits such as oranges apples, pears, mangoes, guavas, pineapples and grapes. Milk may be taken after a week of a diet of fruits only. The milk should be fresh and boiled only once. The patient can be permitted cereals in the diet after two weeks.
Vegetables are also good for a patient of hypertension. They should preferably be taken raw. If they are cooked, it could be ensured that their natural goodness is not destroyed in the process of cooking. Vegetables like cucumber, carrot, tomato, onion, raddish, cabbage and spinach are best taken in their raw form. They may be cut into small pieces and sprinkled with a little salt and the juice of a lemon added to them so as to make them more palatable. The intake of salt should be restricted ; in any case it should not be taken more than four grams or half a teaspoon per day. Baking powder, containing sodium carbonate should also be avoided.
Garlic is regarded as one of the most effective remedies to lower blood pressure. The pressure and tension are reduced because it has the power to ease the spasm of the small arteries. Garlic also slows the pulse and modifies the heart rhythm besides relieving the symptoms of dizziness, numbness, shortness of breath and the formation of gas within the digestive tract. The average dosage should be two to three capsules a day to make a dent in the blood pressure.
Recent studies have revealed an important link between dietary calcium and potassium and hypertension. Researchers have found that people who take potassium-rich diets have a low incidence of hypertension even if they do not control their salt-intake. They have also found that people with hypertension do not seem to get much calcium in the form of dairy products. The two essential nutrients seem to help the body throw off excess sodium and are involved in important functions which control the working of the vascular system. Potassium is found in abundance in fruits and vegetables and calcium in dairy products.
The patient of hypertension should follow a plan of a well-balanced diet in which the constituents of food should be approximately in the following proportion : carbohydrate twenty per cent, protein ten to fifteen per cent, fat five per cent and fruits and vegetable sixty to sixty-five percent. In this plan, one main meal should be based on raw foods while the second main meal may consist of cooked foods. Meals should be taken slowly and in a relaxed atmosphere. Food should be well masticated as the process of digestion begins in the mouth. The dinner should not normally be taken late.