Often when a person talks grimly of suffering from hypertension, one wonders if he knows exactly what it is. All he knows, perhaps, is that it affects only affluent people and in a way even considers is to be a status symbol. Which is why it is important to explain what hypertension is, to dispel any misconception. A majority of people are familiar with the world Blood Pressure and usually for them blood pressure means only high blood pressure. Hypertension is the technical or medical word for high blood pressure.
Hypertension attacks people who do brain work more than physical work, those who hold responsible posts and businessmen who lead stressful, hectic lives. Stress seems to be one of the major causes for blood vessel disorders, i.e. hypertension.
What is hypertension?
To properly understand what Hypertension is, it is essential to know something about blood and blood vessels and the circulatory system.
Hypertension is the disorder of the blood vessels. The blood circulating in the body through the blood vessels (arteries) supplies oxygen as well as nourishment to all the existing cells in the system. The heart pumps blood into the large arteries. The pumping created by this pressure is the blood pressure. For the circulation of blood, pressure up to a certain limit is essential. When this normal pressure increases a little, the smaller blood vessels narrow down forcing the heart to pump blood with greater effort. Hence the blood pressure rises in proportion to the heart’s pressure. The heart has to beat faster an exert some pressure to supply blood to various organs resulting in the pressure getting high and giving rise to hypertension.
Heart rests too
It is a popular misconception that the heart works ceaselessly from birth to death. Far from it. It does rest in between the beats for a fraction of a second. This particular function of alternately resting and pumping, aids the measuring of the blood pressure.
Checking of blood pressure of the patient is a regular feature of general physical examination, because any abnormality in the pressure (high or low) gives a clue to the ailment the person suffers from.
It is measured by an apparatus known as Sphygmomanometer.
The resting period between two heart beats is known as Diastole and the period of muscular contraction for pumping blood is the Systole. By measuring the systole and Diastole level, we know whether our blood pressure is high or low. The average normal blood pressures are lower in children at 90/80 and 120/80 for adults. In an otherwise healthy adult the blood pressure may even measure 140/90 which is considered still normal as there is a belief that in some adults the blood pressure may rise a little as they grow old. However, blood pressure between 140/90 and 180/100 is considered to be on the higher side and is called moderate hypertension. Anything above this range is severe hypertension and needs immediate treatment. Mild as well as moderate hypertension, though may not be a cause for any concern for several years, may manifest in various other serious complications later in life.
How and why is it caused?
Though many factors may bring about hypertension, overeating with the resultant obesity is a very common cause. Another important and familiar cause is stress of all types. Hypertension caused by stress is aggravated and defies complete cure, when intake of tobacco and alcohol also exists. A single cigarette raises the systolic pressure five to ten points, temporarily. But in cases of chain smoking, it will keep the pressure raised.
Some infectious diseases, such as tonsillitis and typhoid in childhood, sometimes impair the functioning of the kidneys in later years, causing high blood pressure. In such cases it should be considered as a natural compensatory mechanism to maintain a normal filtration rate through the hardened walls of the small blood vessels in the kidneys, which otherwise results in worsening of kidney disorders.
Many young women suffer from hypertension due to the attack of convulsions during pregnancy, known as Eclampsia and other kidney disorders of pregnancy associated with an elevated blood pressure. Mental stress when prolonged without respite, may rise the blood pressure permanently without its coming down even after the stress is removed.
Excessive intake of coffee, tea, cola drinks, refined food, pain killers, excessive salt, a high-fat low-fibre diet and processed food, which does not contain essential nutrients, prevent the expulsion of waste and toxic matter from the body, due to which the blood vessels become slack.
The silent killer
Hypertension, if ignored and left untreated, causes many diseases which may become difficult to cure. The initial stages are just symptoms. If the blood circulation in the brain is affected, giddiness, and severe headache are caused due to inflammation of the arteries. Any pressure during this stage causes a stroke which may lead to paralysis of the face, limbs, etc.
Arterial haemorrhage can be caused in the eyes owing to hypertension. When a diabetic associated hypertension is present, there may be loss of vision too. Kidney ailments such as oedema(retention of fluids), skin disorders such as eczema, and a number of other diseases are resulting from the neglect of hypertension. A sensible person suffering from hypertension will correct his ways of living by relaxation, mild exercises and proper diet, thereby getting an upper hand over this disease.
There are several effective drugs for lowering the blood pressure, but these must be taken under a physician’s supervision. Periodical check-ups are necessary to avoid drug abuse. There is a valuable reason for this. In persons whose blood pressure has been above normal for a long period, the heart muscles and kidney filters would have already adjusted themselves to the increased pressure. When it is lowered too much and too rapidly, the drugs instead of doing good, will do harm. So medical supervision is imperative. The physician will decide the quantity of the drug to be consumed depending on the need of the patient.
Treatment for hypertension
Cheer up! Diet can save you
Natural scientists and healers of all medical systems stress that diet can cause and cure diseases. Hypertension is no exception. A regulated diet and relaxation programme can bring relief to the sufferers, provided they are willing to follow the natural ways of handling their problem.
Before the hardening of the blood vessels occur, much can be done to help those who suffer from hypertension. Especially in obese people, diet is of vital importance. Obese people should realize that they must control their appetite and maintain normal weight.
Too much of protein foods, sweets, rich pastries, desserts, ice creams and drinks containing caffeine, must be omitted from their diet and intake of salt should be minimal.
Diet for specific period: See Chapter 28.
Hot foot bath (never forget the cold compress on the head whenever you take hot foot baths).
They certainly reduce the blood pressure but they must never be done while under medication. It must be brought to normal only by diet first. Walking and relaxing are the best in the initial stages. Once under control, exercises can be encouraged.
Padmasana, Bhujangasana, Parvatasana and Suptavajrasana are beneficial in hypertension.
Nos. 1, 2 and 5. (See page 189 & 190)