Do you suffer with high or low blood pressure?

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If you or your friends suffer from high or low blood pressure, read the following:

The chemistry of blood pressure

 An exact balance of magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium is critical to keeps the blood alkaline and to enable heart muscles to contract and relax at regular intervals. Too little magnesium (excess of calcium) causes a cramping or spasm that can seriously constrict the arteries and so blood pressure increases. The blood has to be kept alkaline, at a pH of 7.4. However, venous blood is more acidic after it has circulated around the tissues and collected metabolic waste. In this case, it is buffered with sodium (from salt) that is present in the blood for this purpose.

Insulin resistance raises blood pressure

It is a vicious circle because having high blood pressure more than doubles a per­son’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance causes high blood pressure. Beta-blockers (drugs like Inderal and Tenormin) increase the risk of insulin resistance by as much as 30 %. They can affect the beta-receptor-mediated release of insulin from pancreatic beta cells. The decreased blood flow through the micro­circulation also decreases insulin sensitivity. (However, both short-term and long-term studies indicate that ACE inhibitors may actually improve insulin sensitivity and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.)

First, attend to your mineral deficiencies

The most common deficiencies that bring about high blood pressure are magne­sium, potassium and omega 3 essential fatty acids. You are told to avoid salt mainly because you have a potassium deficiency. Sodium displaces potassium. The easiest way to get rid of excessive salt or sodium is to take more potassium. This reduces blood in your veins and arteries. By taking magnesium, you relax the exces­sive contraction of blood vessels, essential fatty acids help to make them more flexible, and they help to keep the blood thin and free flowing. Thus, you have less blood running smoothly through larger blood vessels.

Blood pressure varies throughout the day

Blood pressure usually refers to the pressure of the blood within the arteries, or arterial blood pressure. This pressure is determined by several interrelated factors, including the pumping action of the heart, the resistance to the flow of blood in the arterioles, the elasticity of the walls of the main arteries, the blood volume and extracellular fluid volume, and the blood’s viscosity, or thickness.

The pumping action of the heart refers to how hard the heart pumps the blood (force of heartbeat), how much blood it pumps (the cardiac output), and how efficiently it does the job. Contraction of the heart, which forces blood through the arteries, is the phase known as systole. Relaxation of the heart between contrac­tions is called diastole. The main arteries leading from the heart have walls with strong elastic fibres capable of expanding and absorbing the pulsations generated by the heart. At each pulsation the arteries expand and absorb the momentary increase in blood pressure. As the heart relaxes in preparation for another beat, the aortic valves close to prevent blood from flowing back to the heart chambers, and the artery walls spring back, forcing the blood through the body between contrac­tions. In this way the arteries act as dampers on the pulsations and thus provide a steady flow of blood through the blood vessels.

Measuring and monitoring blood pressure

How do they measure blood pressure?

 The old-fashioned method is what most of us remember. That strange device called a sphygmomanometer. First an armband was placed around your upper arm. It is attached to two rubber tubes. Once in place, the Doctor or Nurse squeezed the pump a few times and you felt it tightening. They watch to inflate it to just above your highest reading. The rubber ball (pump) is attached to the tube that feeds air into the balloon inside the fabric armband. Then they listen with a stethoscope pressed against the inside crease of your arm, placed over the brachial artery (the one you can see). They listen for a thud, (the highest one, the systole) then release the pressure slowly and wait for a sound to indicate the lower reading (diastole). They use an aneroid (circular dial) or flip top box with a mercury column. You are then told that you have normal, high or low blood pressure. You feel bewildered but are too shy to ask what is going on, so here it will be explained in detail.

What do the Numbers Mean?

 We have automatic devices that are used to measure your blood pressure. They are more accurate, providing the cuff fits you properly. When your blood pressure readings are taken you will see two numbers. The higher number (systolic) measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts). The lower number (diastolic) measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).

  • Normal: Less than 120 over 80 (120/80)
  • Prehypertension: 120-139 over 80-89
  • Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159 over 90-99
  • Stage 2 hypertension: 160 and above over 100 and above
  • Hypertensive crisis: 180 and over 110 and above (an emergency)

In healthy arteries, the blood pressure should be 120/80 irrespective of age. When it starts to increase we know that there are problems with the arteries. More tests may be needed to establish a complete symptom picture associated with the raised blood pressure. A single blood pressure reading is not enough because some patients get nervous and it can raise their blood pressure.

Have your blood pressure checked regularly and if it is elevated, please see your healthcare professional.

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Dr James Liddell is an Integrated Healthcare Specialist (B.Pharm; M.Pharm; PhD; SAPC and PSSA registered) specialising in integrating different disciplines of healthcare to ensure holistic healthcare solutions. With 25 years experience as a Pharmacist, Dr of Nutrition and Complementary & Alternative Medicine Healthcare Practitioner, he believes lifestyle is ultimately the key to optimal health; a good nutritional foundation combined with sound emotional health are the fundamentals to what he calls ‘the optimal health zone’.