White Salt Container and a Stethoscope

Foods to Avoid When Managing High Blood Pressure

Diet plays a significant role in the development and management of blood pressure.  A diet which is higher in calories and fat can lead to obesity which is one of the major risk factors in high blood pressure development.  Just as there are foods that can help in controlling and managing blood pressure, there are foods that increase blood pressure. 

Hypertension is a disease that can be treated or managed by maintaining a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.  If you have hypertension or are at risk of high blood pressure, you can easily modify your diet to prevent the serious consequences of hypertension.

The Culprit

Sodium is the villain for individuals at risk of heart disease or living with hypertension.  According to World Health Organization (WHO), individuals living with hypertension should restrict their daily intake of sodium to less than 5mg.  However, an average European consumes around 7-12g of sodium every day!

About 75% of consumed salt comes from processed foods and sodium included in meals at cafes, restaurants and other food establishments.

Foods to Avoid

Here are the foods that you must avoid as they play a role in increasing your blood pressure:

1.    Canned Beans

For preservation purposes, these canned goods are loaded with sodium. It is best to opt for fresh beans.  However, if you want to use canned beans, first, place them in a colander and rinse them thoroughly with water.  This will help in washing away most of the sodium.

2.    Alcohol

Alcohol consumption has surprisingly found to decrease the risk of heart disease, but of course, there is a catch.  It must be done in moderation – one serving a day for women and two servings a day for men.  Consumption of more than the recommended servings can lead to dehydration and gradual weight gain – both of these increase blood pressure levels.

3.    Bacon

Bacon is also loaded with sodium which can increase the blood pressure.  Merely three slices of bacon have 270 mg of sodium and 4.5 grams of fat.

4.    Premade Soups

Even with nutritious veggies, premade soups include a high amount of sodium.  Unfortunately, while you can rinse off the sodium from canned beans, you can’t do that with premade soup.  It is best to make fresh soup or opt for premade soups which have ‘reduced salt’ or ‘low in sodium’ labels on their packaging.

5.    Packaged and Processed Meats

These include hot dogs, breakfast sausages and more.  Packaged and processed meats are also loaded with sodium and saturated fats, both of which play a major contributing role in hypertension.  Avoid the refrigerated section of your grocer and opt for fresh meat instead. Remember, having high blood pressure doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself.  It is more about eating smart to keep your body healthy.  Opt for the DASH diet, one of the most effective diets in managing and reducing high blood pressure.  It includes whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables to ensure you are full and healthy throughout the day.

Doctor Checking Blood Pressure of an Elderly Patient

Controlled Blood Pressure Can Reduce The Risk Of Dementia

Low blood pressure does not necessarily mean stable blood pressure.  According to a study, individuals who had suffered a stroke or a heart disease were found to have low blood pressure and were also found to have experienced changes in the brain affecting their memory and cognition.  There is a significant link between Alzheimer’s and blood pressure as studies have found that older patients with hypertension or high blood pressure are likely to experience symptoms of Alzheimer’s.  A recent study indicated that controlled blood pressure reduces the risk of dementia.

Study

The clinical trial in this study1The SPRINT MIND Investigators for the SPRINT Research Group. Effect of Intensive vs Standard Blood Pressure Control on Probable Dementia: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019;321(6):553–561. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.21442conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and reported in the Jan. 28 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated that controlling the blood pressure in individuals aged 68 and older can decrease the risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) risk, which is a precursor of dementia.

Individuals aged 65 years and up are at increased risk of high blood pressure, which has also been identified as one of the risk factors of dementia and MCI.  The study focused on 9,400 participants around the age of 68.  These participants were randomly assigned treatments, which can help in maintaining their blood pressure at either 120mm Hg, 140 mm Hg or below.

The Results

All the participants were at risk for heart diseases. The initial aim of the study was to determine whether strict blood pressure goals can help in saving lives.  This study was planned to continue for 5 years but concluded early.

This is because within three years of trial, the participants who maintained a 120 systolic blood pressure were leading a healthier life as compared to the participants maintaining a 140 systolic blood pressure.

Moreover, the participants with a 120 systolic reading experienced a 17% decrease in the risk of dementia.  While the report stated that this result is not statistically significant, it still provides a strong base for further research.  It also indicates that controlled blood pressure can reduce this risk.

Blood Pressure and Dementia

Further research is being conducted now to understand further the link between controlled blood pressure and reduced dementia risk.

The researchers suggested that there are various ways in which the brain health can be influenced by blood pressure.  Increased blood pressure levels can cause damage to the brain’s tiny blood vessels, which can further harm the brain tissues.  This can also have an impact on the toxic substances amount, which can enter and affect the brain. While this study might not have produced significant evidence proving that controlled blood pressure can decrease the risk of dementia, it has still highlighted the importance of vascular health and cardiovascular disease and their impact on the brain.  Further research may provide enough evidence for experts to create guidelines for individuals regarding ways to control blood pressure to decrease dementia risk.

Blood Pressure Being Monitored

Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home Can Be a Better Alternative Than Checking at Your Doctor

Blood pressure monitoring is one of the most common activities in a medical practice.  Patients that have been diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, all require continuous blood pressure monitoring.  However, high blood pressure can also be checked at home.  In fact, a recent study showed that monitoring blood pressure at home for two days can be a much better alternative to costlier methods of multiple visits to a doctor or clinician.

The Study

The study2Devereux G, Gibney D, Fadhlillah F, et al Two-day home blood pressure monitoring may offer an alternative to costlier methods BMJ Innovations 2018;4:84-90. assessed that performing 20 measurements of blood pressure in two days can offer a stable and reliable representation of the resting diastolic and systolic blood pressure of the patients. 

The researchers determined that 10 readings of blood pressure everyday are as statistically representative as 15 readings each day.  They believed that an increased frequency of blood pressure reading and decreased duration might offer a more stable and realistic representation of the resting blood pressure of the patients.

The results showed that the reading of 10 blood pressure measurements in 2 days did offer a pragmatic and stable approach towards monitoring blood pressure at home.  The results indicated that it can be a better alternative for patients rather than costlier methods of monitoring blood pressure at a clinician or surgery.

Blood Pressure Readings

In order to take the right blood pressure readings at home, it is important that you understand how it works.  The blood pressure is taken in two numbers – diastolic (bottom number) and systolic (top number).  For example, if you have a 120/80 mm Hg blood pressure, it would be read as 120 over 80.

Aside from this, there are seven classifications of BP and definitions of hypertension, as per the most recent ESH/ESC Guidelines3European Heart Journal, Volume 39, Issue 33, 01 September 2018, Pages 3021–3104, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehy339published in European Heart Journal, Volume 39, Issue 33, 01 September 2018.  These categories are:

Category    Systolic (mmHg)  Diastolic (mmHg) 
Optimal  <120  <80 
Normal  120–129  80–84 
High normal  130–139  85–89 
Grade 1 hypertension  140–159  90–99 
Grade 2 hypertension  160–179  100–109 
Grade 3 hypertension  ≥180  ≥110 
Isolated systolic hypertension ≥140  <90 

Table: Classification of office blood pressure and definitions of hypertension grade

The condition of hypertensive crisis is extremely serious and needs medical attention.  If you have a high blood pressure and are experiencing symptoms such as speaking difficulty, vision problems, weakness, numbness, back pain, breathing difficulty, or chest pain then you must immediately call for emergency medical assistance.

The Benefits of Home Monitoring

Monitoring your blood pressure at home has numerous advantages, including enhanced reproducibility, cost effectiveness, and improved tolerance.  It is even considered to provide more accurate readings as compared to the blood pressure readings taken in doctor’s offices.

Regular home monitoring helps in reducing the risk of hypertension, and also encourages patients to take charge of their health and become more involved in their long-term care, instead of solely relying on a doctor’s visit. Moreover, it also helps patients to learn to manage their blood pressure by adapting a healthier lifestyle, thereby enhancing their overall health.

Human Brain Illustration

Luke Perry’s Unfortunate Demise Indicates Stroke is Not Just a Concern for Elderly

Many assume that a stroke happens among the elderly.  However, the recent death of Luke Perry, at the age of 52, has come as a strong reminder that stroke can happen to younger individuals too.  A stroke occurs when there is a disruption in the flow of blood to your brain.  It can be caused by either internal bleeding or a blood clot.  Around 10% of the strokes that happen every year in the Europe strike individuals who are less than 50 years of age.

Stroke Cases

While stroke typically affects the elderly population, it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t affect individuals of other age groups.  According to experts, stroke can affect not just middle-aged individuals but also young adults in their 20s and 30s, and even children.  Evidence has suggested that there has been an increase in the rate of stroke cases amongst the younger population in the recent years.

According to the Burden Of Stroke Report, launched in the EU Parliament by Stroke Alliance for Europe, about 85% of stroke cases are ischemic strokes, when a clot stops the blood from flowing to the brain.  Generally, the risk of a stroke increases with age, 15% cases of ischemic stroke occur in adolescents and young adults.

Risk Factors and Causes of Stroke

The risk factors that can increase your chances of experiencing a stroke includes:

  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Cardiovascular diseases

Some potential causes of stroke include:

  • Arterial Dissection – an artery lining tears and gets separated from the vessel wall.  This results in the formation of a blood clot at the location of the tear, which makes its way to the brain, blocking the blood flow.
  • Hole in Heart – when an infant takes its first ever breath, the passageway between the heart’s right and left side should close.  In certain cases, that passageway stays open leaving a hole.  This hole can increase the chances of a stroke in future.
  • Clotting of Blood – in some individuals, due to some genetic mutation, blood clots are formed, which can make their way to their brain, stopping the flow of blood.
  • Rhythm Disturbance or Heart Defect – a structural defect in the heart can be caused by various factors, including a previous heart attack.  This can lead to the formation of clots in the heart, which can travel to the brain.
  • Narrowing of Artery – this can be caused by certain drugs and can block the blood flow in the brain.
  • Arteriovenous Malformation – this happens when there is a formation of a tangle of blood vessels with abnormal connections between arteries and veins which prevents the blood from flowing in the brain.

There are various signs that indicate that an individual is having a stroke, including speech difficulties, arm weakness, and face drooping.  It is essential to take the right measures to prevent stroke like restricting smoking and intake of alcohol, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight and diet.