If we aren’t careful, covid stress will kill us faster than the virus itself! Stress raises blood pressure and elevated pressure is associated with bleeding in the brain and other deadly situations.
High blood pressure (HBP) is called “the silent killer” because there are no symptoms. The sad thing is that, you can have HBP for years without knowing it because you feel fine; underneath that good feeling, your heart, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, eyes and other parts of your body are being destroyed. You’ll know you have HBP, also called hypertension, only by regularly checking your blood pressure.
What do the blood pressure numbers mean?
There are two numbers in your blood pressure reading, for example, 120/80. The top number (120) is the pressure when the heart beats and pumps out blood – systolic blood pressure. The number below (80) is the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats and re-fills with blood – diastolic pressure. Both numbers must be kept in the normal range. Cut out the table below and post it on your refrigerator.
Blood Pressure Levels in Adults – measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
|Less than 120
|Less than 80
|High blood pressure (hypertension)
|160 or higher
|100 or higher
|People with diabetes
|Less than 130
|Less than 80
|People with kidney disease
|Less than 130
|Less than 80
High blood pressure damages the body in many ways:
- The heart gets larger or weaker – it won’t be able to pump enough blood throughout the body.
- Aneurysms may form in blood vessels. An aneurysm is a “ballooning” in the wall of a blood vessel. When a brain aneurysm ruptures, death, paralysis, even blindness follows.
- Arteries may become narrow leading to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputation, or sexual impotence in men. This is worse for diabetics!
- Blood vessels in the eyes may burst or bleed resulting in vision changes or blindness.
How to treat – or prevent – high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is treated with lifestyle changes and medication. As we age, blood pressure tends to rise – especially in Black people. A healthy lifestyle can delay or prevent this rise. If you are controlling your HBP with medication, you must still practice the healthy habits outlined below. Furthermore, as all medications have side effects, it’s better if you can control your pressure via healthy lifestyle.
. Healthy eating – use the D.A.S.H. diet.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, peas, beans and other plant foods, low salt (sodium) and low fat. Use low-fat milk and dairy products, more fish and poultry, less red meat and less added sugars. Read the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods: if the %DV for sodium or fat is 20 or more (per serving on the package), it means that food contains a lot of salt or fat. Black people, in particular, must reduce their salt intake. By the way, sea salt is SALT! Limit alcoholic drinks: too much alcohol raises blood pressure. Men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks a day; for women, only one.
. Become more active – ask your doctor how much, and what, is safe for you to do.
At least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity on most, or all, days: brisk walking, dancing, bowling, riding a bike, gardening and cleaning the house. If your doctor agrees, you can do more intense activities, such as jogging, swimming, boxing, roller-blading, skiing, skating, skipping rope and playing sports.
. Maintain a healthy weight – if overweight people lose just 10 pounds, that’s a big help!
To determine if you’re overweight, measure your waist. Men with a waist of 40 inches or more, and women with a waist of 35 inches or more, are overweight.
. Stop smoking – literally, money going up in smoke!
Smoking can damage your blood vessels and raise your blood pressure. It will also worsen health problems related to HBP. Talk to your doctor about products to help you quit. Protect yourself from second-hand smoke. (My Mother quit with prayer – God helped her).
. Manage your stress
Positive stress management will improve your emotional and physical health (and will help you quit smoking). Techniques include: listening to your favourite music, singing, art & crafts, laughter, optimism, prayer, meditation, drumming, yoga, tai chi, gardening, dancing, or other physical activity. Making lifestyle changes can be hard: Start by making one healthy lifestyle change and then adopt others.
Buy your own blood pressure machine!
Blood pressure machines in drug stores and supermarkets may not be accurate. They may not work well for children or people with arms that are fatter or thinner than normal. It’s best to buy an electronic home blood pressure machine – costs about $50. Machines with an arm cuff are better than the wrist cuff. Ask a nurse or doctor to show you how to use it. S/he should ask you to bring your home monitor to the office so you can measure your blood pressure in one arm with it while the nurse/doctor measures your pressure in the other arm with the office equipment. This will validate the accuracy of your home machine.
Can blood pressure be too low?
Yes. If your blood pressure is too low you will be constantly tired, may become light-headed or even faint. This can happen when the top (systolic) number is less than 90.
Submitted by Dr. Sandra Romano Anthony with notes from the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org