Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected])
Last week a series on high blood pressure started running on this page. The medical condition, which is more generally known as hypertension, was also explained. Most people like Peter Johnson (not real name), a senior advertising services executive living in Lagos, Nigeria, whose story was presented as the peg for the introductory piece, do not show diligence in going for regular medical check-up, and do not appropriately manage their health. The aggressive pursuit of goals and money in an increasingly hectic urban environment and difficult economic space combine to cause stress which tends to bring on hypertension.
A quick recap from last week…
Blood pressure is the force that the blood exerts on arteries as it flows away from the heart to all parts of the body. Each time the heart beats, an amount of blood is pushed along the length of the artery, in a rhythmic manner that can be measured. The number of beats per minute is called pulse. Similarly, when blood flows back to the heart it also exerts pressure (though lower in force) on the wall of the veins. Pressure of blood flowing away from the heart is called the systolic pressure while the pressure on the vein is called the diastolic pressure. The two pressures are written as systolic/diastolic (upper and lower figures). For instance, for an adult the normal blood pressure is presented as 120/80. A person is said to have high blood pressure when the two figures consistently remain higher than normal. A number of symptoms of hypertension were explained last week. Please read on, learn and take necessary action to boost your health and prevent hypertension from causing your sudden death. In other words, avoid getting a TKO (technical knockout) from hypertension.
Other causes of hypertension
To determine the actual cause of hypertension, your doctor will take pains to listen and interact with you, asking series questions that would help him/her understand your medical history. He would want to know your lifestyle and dietary pattern and other socio-economic activities, trying to see correlations.
A: It is important to know that what you eat contributes in large measure to your developing hypertension. “If you are fond of junk foods (all those Big Macs, pizza, pastries, noodles, spaghetti, hamburger and other tempting foods in this category), and almost three times in a week, you stop over at an eatery to indulge your palate and binge on your preferred junk foods, it is only natural to expect that you are putting your life in danger because a lifestyle of consuming junk foods is a predisposing factor for hypertension.
A medical practitioner who spoke with Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity explains: “Some common factors that can lead to high blood pressure include: eating foods that have high salt content. Look at the typical housewife, when she is cooking soup, she will put about one or two scoops of table salt. Mind you, while boiling the meat and fish, she added salt and different seasonings in cube form (I don’t want to mention their brand names – I don’t have money to hire a lawyer!). All the popular brands you find in the Nigerian market have huge amounts of salt and MSG (monosodium glutamate) as the major content. Particular flavours are then added to give each of them a distinctive taste and appeal to the human palate. However, the main fact is that they all have high sodium content, either directly as table salt (NaCl) or MSG. It is the high level of the sodium from salt or MSG which contribute to a person developing high blood pressure. When you tell people to drastically cut down on salt intake, it is difficult for them. Like the bible says, it easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for such people to discipline their tongues to endure drastically reduced salt intake.”
B: Also ranked with salt is fat-rich or oily foods. Hypertension has been associated with chronic medical conditions such as kidney and hormone problems, diabetes and high cholesterol. Incidentally, two types of cholesterol have impact on health. Cholesterol is a lipid that is like fat, and is found in cells of the human body. The body uses some cholesterol to make its own hormones, vitamin D, and some other substances that helps it to digest foods. In other words, the body is able to make the right amount of cholesterol that it needs. A number of common foods, which come from animal sources, eaten by most people contain cholesterol. Among these are egg yolk, meat, cow milk and cheese.
What is worrisome about cholesterol is that it has tendency to combine with other substances in blood to form plaque, a material that glues itself to the walls of arteries and therefore impedes the smooth flow of blood. Plaques can build up in the artery just like discarded water sachet, plastic bottles and other garbage can block drainages in urban areas and prevent the flow of flood water into canals. The build-up of plaque in the arteries is called atherosclerosis. It can lead to coronary artery disease, whereby the coronary arteries become narrow or even blocked.
There are mainly two types of cholesterol – high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL). Lipoprotein is made from the combination of fat (lipid) and protein. The reason is that lipids need to be attached to proteins to be able to move through the blood. HDL is known as good cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of the body back to the liver, which then removes it from the bad. On the other hand, LDL is known as bad cholesterol because a high level of it leads to the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Medical science has established that an unhealthy lifestyle is the most common cause of high cholesterol in human beings. Implicated in this regard are the following: unhealthy eating habits which tend to emphasise fatty foods such as saturated fat found in some kinds of meat, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods, which can increase the level of LDL (bad cholesterol).
C: Individuals whose parents or other close family relations had high blood pressure are also very likely to suffer from it too. Take the case of Peter Johnson whose father was diagnosed of hypertension when he was 63 and had retired from the civil service. With personal discipline and medical care, the condition was well managed for 26 years until he died at 89.
D: Another predisposing factor for developing hypertension is lack of physical exercise. Why do you think United States President Donald Trump is crazy about regularly playing golf? A round of golf is good physical exercise. Yes, golf is somewhat elitist and available only to people who can afford the cost involved, there are, however, other forms of physical exercise that the average person can engage in.
E: The older one becomes, the individual is more likely to develop high blood pressure. For Johnson Peter, his condition was discovered when he was 55. It has been established that once a person reaches 40 years and above, he should begin to do regular blood pressure check.
F: Anybody who is overweight or obese should be able to hear the alarm bells of hypertension ringing loudly and then do the needful, which is go and have a down-to-earth chat with a doctor.
G: A person whose daily life is filled with stress is a sure bet for hypertension.
H: Tobacco use or drinking too much alcohol is another predisposing factor high blood pressure.
I: It has been determined that race plays a role in development of hypertension. Africans and other people of African descent such as African Americans, African descent South Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure than people of other races.
L: Prolonged use of some birth control medicines and other medications can also cause a person to develop hypertension.