Living Well: the dangers of high blood pressure (hypertension)

Back in January, I visited my new doctor and had my blood pressure checked for the first time in months. It was the highest it had ever been and I was really worried about it. Over the years, my blood pressure was one of the few things that actually seemed to be in check. I managed to maintain it with a healthy diet, regular exercise, reducing alcohol intake, etc, and etc. But when I saw it had climbed to 175/80, I nearly cried. I vowed that day to return to my healthy habits and work hard on losing weight.

I have an appointment next week and will ask them to check it again. There are significant health risks to having high blood pressure. And while I’m not a doctor, I have learned watching my dad go through the struggles of high blood pressure and how it has affected his health. From what I do know, HBP for the sake of this article, can be hereditary. I was floored when my dad’s highest reading was 200/80. I didn’t think that was possible.

So today, I’m going to share some of the risks associated with high blood pressure, what causes it, and how you can help lower it. Detecting high blood pressure is easy – all you need is a test that can be done at your doctor’s office. Or you can buy a kit and test yourself at home if you suffer from chronic high blood pressure.


Symptoms of High Blood Pressure (HBP)

  • Severe and chronic headaches
  • Nosebleeds or blood in the urine or blood spots on the skin and in the eyes
  • Easily fatigued, dizzy spells, confusion and vision problems
  • Chest pain – could be an early indicator or a stroke or heart attack

These symptoms are not akin to high blood pressure alone, they could be part of many other medical illnesses. If there is a history of high blood pressure, heart conditions or strokes in your family, you may want to visit your doctor regularly for check ups.


Dangers of High Blood Pressure

Secondary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that is caused by other medical conditions. Some examples of these conditions are sleep apnea, kidney disease, tumours, thyroid issues, genetic defects in the blood vessels, and some drugs like cocaine or meth.

The longer a person lives with high blood pressure, the more at risk they are for a heart attack or stroke. I write this as I just lost a dear friend to a series of strokes. They are no joke and can be severely debilitating. Strokes can cause people to lose mobility function, become paralyzed or lose the ability to speak. A good example of this is one of my favorite country singers, Randy Travis. And more recently I learned that the actor Tim Curry suffered a terrible stroke. He is barely recognizable now.

What contributes to high blood pressure? Age, genetic makeup, and even race. High blood pressure is common among the African population. Living a sedentary life without exercise, being severely overweight, smoking, using drugs, too much alcohol, and even a heavy sodium diet can increase your blood pressure readings.

One of the more common factors to strokes or heart attacks is stress or living with severe anxiety. Living in constant anxiety or putting stress on your body can really bump up your blood pressure.


Stress can lead to heart attacks or strokes

Stress can absolutely cause the heart to work harder than it needs to. This can increase blood pressure, sugar and fat levels. As a result, this can cause clots forming to the heart, brain or legs. Clots like heart attacks, can also be fatal.

My friend who just died, I worked for three years at my current job. She blamed workplace stress as the cause of her heart attacks. She said every time she thought about returning to work, she would wind up in the hospital. In my experience, it’s not the job that’s stressful – it’s the people that manage the job and create a toxic work environment that makes it stressful.

She had lost 60 pounds in her year leave. Within a couple of months of returning to work, she had a stroke which would eventually lead to a series of strokes. I am writing this with a heavy heart as I came to love her dearly. The loss was a blow and it definitely hurt.

I’m writing this post to help educate others on what to watch out for – you body will give you warning signs that you are not okay. Or that you have pushed yourself past what it is capable of.

Back in 1995, my uncle had a heart attack that led to a quadruple bypass. Following the surgery, he lost weight, went on regular walks with the dog, ate healthy foods, reduced alcohol intake and he was on the road to recovery. But it was a car accident that caused his death later that year. He had two brothers who also had high blood pressure – and we lost both of them within two years of my uncle’s death.

I’m not sharing these stories for sympathy, what I am doing is sharing them to pass on what I’ve learned about heart disease, and living with high blood pressure. I’ve seen first hand what it can do to a body.


How to reduce stress in your life

While some stresses are difficult to avoid such as work related stress or daily life stress, there are ways you can learn to manage the stress so that you can learn to reduce the risks of high blood pressure or heart attacks.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned to manage my blood pressure over the years – it’s a work in progress and I’m getting better with it.

Eat a balanced diet with moderation

You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight. What you can do is track your food intake for a few weeks and see where you can make cuts in a healthy way. Maybe you’re drinking too many sugar filled drinks, or eating foods that are greasy or high in complex cars like breads and pastas. Well, the good news, is you don’t have to stop eating those types of foods (unless your doctor has ordered you to), what you can do is consume foods in moderation.

Everything in moderation.

I have a lot of tips on general fitness and eating healthy over on my fitness page – so I encourage you to check that out to learn more.

Vegetables and Fruits | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of  Public Health

Get regular exercise -and some sunshine

While changing your diet will surely help you lose weight, exercise is more about the many health benefits. Going for a 20-30 minute walk daily, climbing stairs, or going for a bike ride is not only great for the body, but it’s essential for mental health. Getting outside after being cooped up for days or weeks at a time while in isolation, can help perk up your mood.

If cardio isn’t your jam, then try something like swimming, aqua size, joining a sport, or doing something at home such as yoga, pilates or lifting weights.

I need to get better at this myself and am planning on going outside to enjoy the sun as soon as I finish this article.

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Meditation

Meditation is something I love doing and it’s easier than you think it is to do. For me, I either listen to music or sit at the piano and play some music. Or I can go outside and sit on my balcony for 20 minutes in silence watching people walk by.

Another thing I love doing is having a warm or hot bath with candles and sea salt. I do this every few days and it’s so easy to zone right out. Just be careful not to fall asleep! I almost did this the other night because I was so relaxed.

If you struggle with meditating, head on over to my meditation page. I’ve posted some of my favorite youtube channels there.

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Self-care and therapy

Being in a constant state of anger, anxiety or stress is terrible for the body. If you are experiencing sudden bursts of anger or are constantly in a “fit of rage”, I encourage you to consider therapy. Therapy isn’t bunk. It has helped millions of people around the world who struggle with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.

There is no shame at all in asking for help if it is needed. I worked on the provincial program for FOUR years in helping reduce the stigma of mental health illnesses.

If you have someone in your life who is causing you a lot of anxiety and grief, and you’ve tried therapy, then perhaps it’s time to walk away from that individual. That’s all part of setting healthy boundaries which I do preach about often.

Take it from me – life is too short to lie in a constant state of fear or anger. If you can’t afford therapy, then I suggest that you take up writing or some kind of creative outlet to help you get through trying times.

Self-Care Isn't Selfish - MindWise

Look after you

I hope this article has helped you learn to recognize some danger signs of living with high blood pressure. Stress, anxiety and anger can impact your overall health. Now is the time to start looking after you. And if you need someone to reach out to – my blog is always here for you.


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