According to recent research, over 30% of the UK population suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). Even more concerning is the millions of other people in the country living with it unwittingly.
Known as ‘the silent killer’, people can live with high blood pressure for years with no apparent adverse impact on their health, until they suddenly suffer a stroke or heart attack.
There are also a number of long-term medical conditions such as kidney disease, peripheral arterial disease, and vascular dementia that undiagnosed hypertension can trigger. But, if there are no symptoms, what are the possible causes of increased blood pressure.
The Ageing Process
No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop the clock. Blood vessels lose their elasticity, and blood begins to thicken as we get older. Also, at an age when we should be exercising more, all too often we begin to lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
High levels of salt and animal fats can lead to increased blood pressure. From salt, the body gets sodium, a much-needed mineral that helps nerve and muscle function, and balances fluid levels. Unfortunately, in today’s modern world, there is salt in everything from processed foods, loaves of bread, to your morning cereal. Meaning most of us already consume more than we need, before we get the salt-shaker out.
Your body needs fats to lubricate the joints, but try to minimize the amount of animal fats you eat – use unsaturated fats instead. Olive oil, fish oil, and oil from fruits, vegetables, and nuts are better than oil from animals and processed foods.
Some people also use supplements such as a Nitric Oxide Supplement which many believe can help blood pressure.
Hypertension is a heritable condition, so if high blood pressure runs in the family, you have a higher chance of being diagnosed with it. If chronic stress caused hypertension in your parents or close family, then you should take care to avoid too much stress in your life, if at all possible. Take a different path, and you could reduce your risk of developing raised blood pressure. The underlying cause, such as a long-term medical condition running in the family, is the prime factor that decides your risk of developing the disease.
For some unknown reason, if you are of African or Caribbean descent, you are more likely to develop hypertension. Not only that, and again it’s not fully understood why, hypertension in some African and Caribbean groups is often more difficult to control using standard hypertension medications.
Controlling your cholesterol level is another reason to cut down on animal fats, pastries, and cakes, which all contain saturated and trans fats. However, cholesterol can be divided into good and bad cholesterol, and we definitely need the good one. Bad fats produce Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), which begins to accumulate in blood vessels, arteries, and heart valves, leading to increased blood pressure and a higher likelihood of coronary thrombosis.
Good cholesterol, from olive and fish oil, nuts and fruit, helps to reduce fatty build-up by removing the bad fat from heart and arteries, moving it to the liver for safe disposal.
This is the scourge of the 21st century and a problem that is starting at an increasingly young age. Initially, obesity was considered to be caused by a life of overeating and lack of exercise. However, recent studies have shown it’s a more complex condition, being influenced by your lifestyle, genetic make-up, and your body’s use of energy.
Nonetheless, whatever the reason for the obesity, the more overweight a person is, the greater the risk of high blood pressure and other serious medical conditions – such as heart disease, bone and joint problems, diabetes, and cancer.
Signs of possible high blood pressure
If you experience any of the following, it may well point to raised blood pressure and should be followed up by a visit to your health center.
- Recurring headaches
- Regular nosebleeds
- Feeling or being sick
- Blurred vision or dizziness
- Palpitations or a thumping heart
Even if you don’t experience any of the above, but feel something is not quite right, ask to have your blood pressure checked. Nowadays, many pharmacies are licensed to take BP readings and, if it’s elevated, can refer you to a doctor.
Alternatively, electronic blood pressure machines are an effective way to monitor your blood pressure. They’re cheap to buy, easy to use, and will help you ensure your BP medication is doing the job it’s supposed to.