Continuing my journey in learning more about this very important organ in our body, Your Heart, I discovered a great deal of information, specifically what blood pressure is and how it effects the function of the heart and I feel everyone should know this.
Blood pressure has gotten a bad rap. Some pressure is essential for circulation. Without it, blood could not move from the heart to the brain and the toes and back again. The heart provides the driving force – each contraction of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, creates a wave of pressure that passes through all the arteries in the body. Relaxed and flexible arteries offer a healthy amount of resistance to each pulse of blood. Blood pressure is the force at which blood pumps from the heart into the arteries.
When blood pressure is high, the blood moves through the arteries more forcefully. This puts increased pressure on the delicate tissues in the arteries and damages the blood vessels.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects about half of American adults, known as a “silent killer,” it usually does not cause symptoms until there’s significant damage done to the heart. Without visible symptoms, most people are unaware that they have high blood pressure. When high blood pressure is accompanied by high cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to the arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. And the relentless pounding of blood against the walls of arteries causes them to become hard and narrow, potentially setting the stage for a heart attack or stroke.
High blood pressure is preventable. Daily exercise, following a healthy diet, limiting your intake of alcohol and salt, reducing stress, and not smoking are keys to keeping blood pressure under control. When it creeps into the unhealthy range, lifestyle changes and medications can bring it down.
Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, which is abbreviated as mm Hg. There are two numbers involved in the measurement:
- Systolic blood pressure. The top number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom number represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats, when your heart is resting.
Your blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping, and how much resistance there is to blood flow in your arteries. The narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
Blood pressure lower than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal. Blood pressure that’s 130/80 mm Hg or more is considered high. If your numbers are above normal but under 130/80 mm Hg, you fall into the category of elevated blood pressure. This means that you’re at risk for developing high blood pressure (3).
The good news about elevated blood pressure is that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your numbers and lower your risk – without requiring medications
An unexpected benefit of better blood pressure control?
When doctors treat older people with high blood pressure, they often worry about a condition that causes blood pressure to plummet when a person stands up from a seated or lying position. Known as orthostatic hypotension (hypotension means low blood pressure), it affects as many as one in five people ages 65 and older. Because orthostatic hypotension can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded after standing, it may lead to fainting and falls – with possibly serious repercussions.
When people are diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension, especially if it causes dizziness, it is understandable for doctors to be tempted to reduce the person’s blood pressure medication. However, other causes such as dehydration or an infection may be to blame, especially among people who have been treated for blood pressure for a while. In addition, several diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, can also contribute to orthostatic hypotension.
Coping with orthostatic hypotension
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded after standing happens to most people occasionally and is usually no cause for concern. But if it happens more frequently, ask your doctor to check you for hypotension.
To help prevent episodes of low blood pressure, these strategies may help:
Do not forget fluids. Drink water throughout the day; do not wait until you are thirsty. But avoid alcohol, which can cause you to become dehydrated.
Support your legs. Compression stockings that squeeze the legs may help. Thigh-high or waist-high versions are best, because knee-high stockings may bunch and tighten, cutting off blood flow.
Take care when rising. Getting out of bed is a common trigger, so pump your legs up and down a few times while still sitting on the edge of your bed to get your blood flowing before you stand up. During the day, try crossing your legs if you feel faint while standing.
Common factors that can lead to high blood pressure include: A diet high in salt, fat, and/or cholesterol. Chronic conditions such as kidney and hormone problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Family history, especially if your parents or other close relatives have high blood pressure.
Here are some simple and effective ways to lower your blood pressure levels without taking any prescription drugs:
- Increase activity and exercise more.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Cut back on sugar.
- Increase potassium and decrease sodium levels in your diet.
- Eat less processed food and eat healthy.
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce excess stress in your life.
- Eat dark chocolate.
- Get restful sleep.
- Take natural supplements.
- Drink less alcohol.
- Drink less caffeine.
- Take “baby aspirin” before you go to bed.
You should also consider taking certain supplements to help your heart. Dietary supplements can be vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other plants and can be in different forms. Here are some supplements to consider:
1. Multivitamin & mineral
Vitamins and minerals taken in appropriate doses may aid in lowering heart disease risk. Whole foods should be the main source of nutrients, and research shows that many people fall short of recommended intakes.
A supplement cannot make up for unhealthy eating habits, but sometimes even people who have healthy eating habits find it hard to get all the fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods they need. A supplement can help fill in the gaps.
Numerous studies suggest positive association between taking vitamin and mineral supplements, and heart disease prevention. Vitamin and mineral supplements can be safe and inexpensive and may provide a health benefit.
2. Coenzyme Q10 (Co Q10)
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance like a vitamin. It is found in every cell of the body. Your body makes CoQ10, and your cells use it to produce energy your body needs for cell growth and maintenance. It also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules. CoQ10 is naturally present in small amounts in a wide variety of foods, but levels are particularly high in organ meats such as heart, liver, and kidney, as well as beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts.
Coenzymes help enzymes work to help protect the heart and skeletal muscles.
CoQ10 is also said to help heart failure, as well as boost energy, and speed recovery from exercise. Some people take it to help reduce the effects certain medicines can have on the heart, muscles, and other organs.
The best way to get fiber is from food. However, if you do not include enough fiber-rich food in your diet and choose to use a fiber supplement, choose a product that has different types of fiber in it-both soluble and insoluble. When taking a fiber supplement, be sure to stay well hydrated.
Psyllium fiber may help lower cholesterol when used together with a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat.
If you choose to take a fiber supplement, be sure you do not inadvertently purchase a laxative supplement instead. The labels on both types of supplements may say something like “regulates bowel patterns.”
Fiber seems to be most effective used in conjunction with diet and exercise for contributing to weight loss.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in oil from certain types of fish, vegetables, and other plant sources. These fatty acids are not made by the body and must be consumed in the diet or through supplements, often “fish oil.”
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids work by lowering the body’s production of triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides can lead to coronary artery disease, heart disease, and stroke. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids used together with diet and exercise help lower triglyceride levels in the blood.
In a double-blind study of patients with chronic heart failure, supplementation with fish oil resulted in a small but statistically significant decrease in the number of patients who died or were hospitalized for cardiovascular reasons. In another double-blind trial, supplementation improved heart function and decreased the number of hospitalizations in some patients.
Low magnesium levels can be a predictor of heart disease, research has revealed. Low magnesium has been linked with cardiovascular risk factors such as: high blood pressure, arterial plaque build-up, calcification of soft tissues, cholesterol and hardening of the arteries.
Magnesium supplements come in various forms and mineral combinations, such as magnesium citrate , magnesium gluconate, magnesium hydroxide and the popular form of magnesium sulfate , also known as Epsom salt, used in baths and foot soaks for sore, tired muscles.
L-carnitine is an amino acid needed to transport fats into the mitochondria (the place in the cell where fats are turned into energy). Adequate energy production is essential for normal heart function.
Several studies using L-carnitine showed an improvement in heart function and a reduction in symptoms of angina.
People with congestive heart failure have insufficient oxygenation of the heart, which can damage the heart muscle. Such damage may be reduced by taking L-carnitine supplements.
7. Green tea
Green tea has been enjoyed for centuries and used as a likely effective aid in treating high cholesterol. Green tea has been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels according to several preliminary and controlled trials. Dr. Rutherford recommends three cups per day, rather than extract since contamination can be a concern as a supplement.
Besides making food taste good for many people, garlic taken orally as a supplement has been used as a possibly effective aid in treating high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Garlic can affect blood-clotting and may increase your risk of bleeding. If you need surgery, dental work, or a medical procedure, stop taking garlic at least two weeks ahead of time.
There is unbelievable amount of information out there about the heart. You can literally get lost in the web of data and studies and still not be able to make any definitive conclusions. What I have done here is summarized very condense research material and put it in a way that it is easy to follow. However, just like any other goal or a desire, it takes commitment. People struggled over dieting, exercising, or changing bad habits and learning new ones, however, it you are serious about your health, specifically your heart, you must act now and commit to a proper diet, exercise, and overall change in the way to take care of your body. I hope you do!
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