Wellness

Health Tips

High Blood Pressure/Hypertension

High blood pressure is known as the 'silent killer' as there are rarely visible symptoms. Two out of three people with high blood pressure are unaware of the condition.

What is high blood pressure?

Your blood pressure is the force exerted by your heart, against the resistance created by the arter- ies, to keep blood flowing throughout the body. Your blood pressure is high (hypertension) when the force is excessive.

At what level is blood pressure high?

Top Number (Systolic) Bottom Number (Diastolic) Stage
100-129 65-84 Normal
130-139 85-89 Normal High
140-159 90-99 Stage 1 (Mild)
160-179 100-109 Stage 2 (Moderate)
180-209 110-119 Stage 3 (Severe)
210+ 120+ Stage 4 (Very Severe)

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is when blood pressure is constantly raised, even when the patient is at rest.

There are, however, natural rises in the blood pressure of healthy people. Blood pressure is affected by body position, breathing, emotional state, exercise and sleep.

Blood pressure is usually the lowest when asleep and highest when excited, stressed or exercising. Blood pressure tends to rise with age or during illness.

Risk factors for high blood pressure:

  • A family history of high blood pressure.
  • An unhealthy diet, including excessive salt intake.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Being overweight.
  • Physical inactivity - lack of exercise.
  • Stress - stress levels are hard to measure and responses to stress vary from person to person.
  • Ethnic groups
  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications such as birth control pills, steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Diseases such as kidney disease.
  • Smoking.

What harm does high blood pressure do?

High blood pressure sufferers may feel perfectly well for years but they are at risk of damaging their arteries and vital organs.

High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke (brain attack) and affect other parts of the body such as the eyes (glaucoma, blindness), kidneys (kidney disease and failure) and peripheral vascular disease (circulation problems in which the arteries that carry blood to the legs or arms become narrowed or clogged).

How can I decrease my blood pressure level?

  • Eat 3-6 small meals per day.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet, low in saturated fat.
  • Overweight people are advised to lose weight.
  • Limit salt or sodium chloride intake to one teaspoon per day.
  • If you drink alcohol do so in moderation.
  • Caffeine in coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolates may cause blood pressure to increase temporarily.
  • Physical inactivity should be part of your daily routine.
  • Stress management is important in keeping your blood pressure under control.

Simple guidelines to decrease salt intake:

  • Understand hidden salt i.e. check food labels.
  • Don't use salt when preparing food but rather use fresh herbs and spices. Enjoy the natural flavor of food.
  • Alternative to salt is pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, fresh garlic, hot pepper sauce, onion powder and home-made salad dressings without added salt.

Cholesterol

Illustration of cholesterol in your blood

Cholesterol plays an important role in our cells and hormones. Why then is there such a negative perception of Cholesterol? High blood cholesterol is seen as dangerous to our health because excess amounts of fat are deposited on the inside of arteries which in turn can cause the arteries to become blocked and lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Who should have their cholesterol tested?

Adults should have their cholesterol tested once every five years, at least. Your pharmacist or doctor can advise you of the correct procedure to follow. Strive for a 5mmol/l when you have your cholesterol tested.

How can cholesterol levels be lowered?

Dietary intervention before drug intervention is ideal.

What are the risk factors for high cholesterol?

  • Genetics
  • Age - cholesterol tends to rise steadily with age.
  • Gender - men are at a higher risk than women.
  • Diet - a diet high in saturated fat is dangerous.
  • Weight - overweight people are more at risk.
  • Exercise - the more active you are the lower your cholesterol levels.
  • Smoking can contribute to increased cholesterol levels.
  • Stress has been associated with increased levels.
  • Alcohol - excess intake may contribute to increased levels.

General guidelines to help lower cholesterol:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet.
  • Maintain your ideal body weight.
  • Eat regularly.
  • Decrease fat intake.
  • Substitute saturated and trans fats with polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats.
  • Increase fish and chicken and reduce red meat intake.
  • Limit dietary cholesterol intake such as egg yolk.
  • Increase your fibre intake. This will include eating five portions of fruit and veg a day, six or more servings of whole-wheat unrefined products daily. Legumes such as soya, dry beans, peas and lentils are a high source of fibre, low source of fat and a good source of protein.
  • If you do use alcohol do so in moderation. Limit your intake to 2 drinks for women and 3 drinks for men per day.

Diabetes

Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a disease in which a person has a abnormally high blood glucose (blood sugar) level, either caused by insulin production that is inadequate, the body's cells does not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience frequent urination and they will become increasingly thirsty and hungry.

Diabetes is a Metabolism Disorder

Diabetes is classified as a metabolism disorder. Most of the food that our bodies digest is broken down into glucose which is a form of sugar in our blood that we need as "fuel" for our bodies.

The glucose (sugar), that is formed after our food was digested, enters our bloodstream, because our cells needs the glucose for growth and energy, but the glucose (sugar) cannot enter our cells without the presence of insulin as the insulin enables our cells to be able to take in the glucose.

The pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin, automatically releases a sufficient amount of insulin, after eating, so that the glucose in our blood is able to move into our cells. The level of our blood-glucose drops as soon as the glucose in our blood enters our cells.

Some people have a condition where their bodies either does not produce a sufficient amount of insulin, no insulin or they may have cells which does not respond to the insulin that the pancreas produces, because of this, the level of glucose in the blood is too high and this condition is known as, diabetes.

There are 4 different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type2 diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Other specific types (such as genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections and other illnesses

Risk factors for diabetes:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Physical inactivity
  • Impared glucode tolerance
  • Certain ethnic and racial groups

What are the symptoms for diabetes?

  • Constant thirst
  • Increases hunger
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Numbness/tingling in finger tips and toes
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurred vision or visual disturbances
  • Skin infection due to slow wound healing
  • Constant tiredness

How is it diagnosed?

A blood sample is taken to test for the glucose level. High blood glucose will usually indicate diabetes. Normal blood glucose levels are 4-6 mol/l.

What are the dangers of diabetes?

  • Eye cataracts
  • Kidney disease
  • Neuropathy (gradual damaging of the nerves)
  • Ulcers,infections,gangerene,etc.
  • Atherosclerosis which is the hardening of arteries, heart disease and stroke.

How does diabetes affect the heart?

Heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths because the constant high blood sugar is associated with narrowing of the arteries, increased blood trighlycerides (a type of fat), decreased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart attack.

HYPER versus HYPO

HYPERglycaemia is high blood glucose caused by eating too much, feel stressed, anxious, or emotional, not taking any or sufficient insulin or medication, being ill, skipping exercise or hormonal imbalances.

HYPOglycaemia is low blood glucose and is caused by eating too little food, too few carbohydrates, delaying or skipping meals or snacks, exercising harder or longer than usual, taking too much insulin or oral medication, being ill or drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

Can diabetes be cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for diabetes. With careful monitoring and commitment, diabetics can avoid complications and enjoy a long, productive life.

General dietary guidelines for a diabetic

  • Attain and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Eat small, regular meals.
  • Include plenty of fibre rich carbohydrates.
  • Give preference to unrefined carbohydrates and avoid refined carbohydrates.
  • Include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetable in your diet every day.
  • Limit fat intake.
  • Use healthier cooking methods.
  • Sugar, salt and alcohol should only be used by well-controlled diabetics.
  • Drink at least 6 - 8 glasses of water per day.
  • Do regular physical exercise to a minimum of 30 minutes at least 3 times per week.
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