People often confuse high blood pressure with heart diseases, and you can’t blame them – high blood pressure is the most common of cardiovascular diseases and heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the US. You often hear about people shunning burgers, fries and steaks for fear of high blood pressure and heart diseases and they have every reason to do so – high blood pressure and heart diseases, though they are two different conditions, could go hand in hand (but not all the time) and both could be equally dangerous when not immediately and properly treated, as they could lead to fatal complications like a heart attack.
Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack, and 460,000 of these are fatal.
A heart attack, medically known as myocardial infarction or MI, happens when the coronary arteries are blocked and could not supply the heart muscles with oxygen and blood. Deprived, the heart muscles suffer injuries and may incur irreversible damages if blood flow is not restored in 20 -40 minutes. The heart muscles will eventually die if blood and oxygen supply are not restored in next eight hours.
The following increases your risk of contracting heart diseases:
- Family History. If a first-degree male relative has suffered a heart attack before the age of 55, or if a first-degree female relative has suffered one before the age of 65, you are at greater risk of developing heart disease. If both your parents have suffered from heart disease before the age of 55, your risk of developing heart disease can rise to 50% compared to the general population.
- High Blood Pressure is high pressure (hypertension) in the arteries. This means that the heart has to work harder than normal to carry blood and oxygen to the heart muscles. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80; blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is called “pre-hypertension”, and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered high.High blood pressure does not mean excessive emotional tension, although emotional tension and stress can temporarily increase blood pressure.
- Uncontrolled diabetes causes damage to your body’s blood vessels making them more prone to damage from atherosclerosis and hypertension. People with diabetes develop atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) at a younger age and more severely than people without diabetes.
- Diet. A diet high in certain compounds increases your risk for cardiovascular diseases. A lot of sugar in your diet can lead to diabetes and too much saturated fats (e.g. cheese) and trans fats (often used in cakes, cookies and fast food) lead to high levels of cholesterol which could build up in the arteries. Salt makes hypertension worse, and agitates your blood pressure. If you’re going to have salt, limit your daily salt intake to 6 g per day. Eating too much salt will cause the kidneys to retain more fluid, and that puts pressure on the heart to work harder. Alcohol, also, increases blood pressure of a person with hypertension. Should you need to drink, limit you consumption to one glass or one bottle a day.
- Smoking accelerates the hardening and narrowing process in your arteries: it starts earlier and blood clots are two to four times more likely.
- Being obese makes you more susceptible to hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Ask your doctor about your ideal weight according to your height.
Of all these risks, hypertension is the one that could sneak up on you because it does not have any symptoms, and the only way to find out is to check it with a pressure monitor. Do regular medical check ups to ensure that you are staying healthy. Discuss your medical conditions with your doctor so he/she can tell you if you are at risk or not.