Doctor Checking Blood Pressure of a Patient

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension affects more than 25% of adult population1Journal of Hypertension: October 2018 – Volume 36 – Issue 10 – p 1953–2041, doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000001940, GUIDELINES in Europe.  It is a significant factor in increasing the risk of chronic kidney disease, vascular disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke.  Therefore, the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) issued updated guidelines in 2018 to improve hypertension treatment.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension occurs when there is a drastic increase in your blood pressure.  Your blood pressure is dependent on the work your heart is doing, as well as the blood vessels’ resistance.  Having high blood pressure means that your blood is applying a high amount of force against the walls of your blood vessels.  

Hypertension is also referred to as a silent killer, as in many cases, it comes with no warning symptoms or signs.  Over time, the pressure buildup results in the accumulation of damage that can be too much for your circulatory system to handle.  This results in severe health issues such as Coronary Artery Disease, Heart Failure, Dementia and Stroke.

Blood Pressure Numbers

In order to fully interpret your blood pressure readings, it is essential to understand how blood pressure is measured. Blood pressure can be measured by the following two numbers:

Systolic Number

The systolic number is the top number in a blood pressure reading. While your heart is beating, it transfers blood through your arteries as it squeezes. The force with which your blood travels throughout the body creates a certain pressure on your blood vessels.  The amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle is called the systolic number.

Diastolic Number

The diastolic number is the bottom number in a blood pressure reading.  It indicates the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats; the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.  It is during this time that the heart fills with blood and gets oxygen.

Both these numbers are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

Blood Pressure Categories

Your blood pressure categories are as follows:

Blood Pressure Categories European Society of Caridology / European Society of Hypertension Guidelines
  Systolic Measurement   Diastolic Measurement
Optimal <120 and <80
Normal 120-129 and/or 80-84
High-Normal 130-139 and/or 85-89
Grade 1 Hypertension 140-159 and/or 90-99
Grade 2 Hypertension 160-179 and/or 100-109
Grade 3 Hypertension ≥180 and/or ≥110
Isolated Systolic Hypertension ≥140 and <90

These updated guidelines are expected to ensure early detection and intervention of hypertension.  According to the new recommendations, blood pressure lowering drugs such as ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARB) or calcium channel blockers should be offered to patients with 10% or more risk of cardiovascular disease.  

Due to these updated guidelines, major positive changes could be made in the lives of hypertension patients and reduce blood pressure issues linked with age. The major aim of these new changes is to improve the process of management and detection of hypertension over the next ten years. While hypertension is common among adults, young individuals and children are also at risk.  The major cause of hypertension among youngsters is unhealthy lifestyle, including lack of physical activity and poor diet.  It is essential to start taking the right measures to prevent hypertension early on by making positive lifestyle changes such as adding regular exercise to your daily routine and eating foods that help to lower blood pressure.  Moreover, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor to discuss the right preventive measures and treatments for hypertension.


Pharmacist Reading medication

Recalls of Three More Losartan Batches Announced

In the past few months, there has been a recall for blood pressure treatment medications, on the suspicion of potential cancer-causing impurities.  According to the US Public Interest Research Group2 Blood pressure medication recalled for 75th time in 8 months – US Public Interest Research Group , the recall announced that Valsartan pills was the 75th recall since the issue first came to light.  The latest recall announced by MHRA3 Three further batches of blood pressure and heart medication recalled from pharmacies – Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is for three batches of Losartan medications.

MHRA Announced Recall for Losartan Batches

Losartan is a blood pressure medication that is utilized by many hypertension patients and to treat nephropathy in patients with Type 2 diabetes.  MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) recently announced the recall for three more Losartan batches as a precaution to protect the health of the public.  Losartan medications are recalled due to the contamination with NMBA (nitrosamine N-nitroso-M-methylamino butyric acid).

Reason Behind the Recall

This recent recall is part of the ongoing investigation about the possible nitrosamine contamination of medications containing sartan.  These medications are used to treat heart failures, heart attacks, and blood pressure.  However, up till now there hasn’t been any concrete evidence about the nitrosamine impurities causing any harm to the patients.

Background of the Investigation

This investigation initiated in 2018 when NMBA was identified in Valsartan medicines, which were being manufactured at a China-based facility.  MHRA recalled various Valsartan batches last year in July4 Blood pressure and heart medication recalled from Pharmacies – Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and later in November 5 MHRA recalls Valsartan blood pressure and heart medication from pharmacies – Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to pharmacy level because of the suspicion of possible NDEA and NDMA contamination.

MHRA again announced a recall in the first two months of this year for Irbesartan 6 MHRA recalls more blood pressure and heart medication from pharmacies as a precaution – Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency medication after they were tested and found potential NDEA contamination.  The entire situation is being constantly monitored in the UK by MHRA and there is a comprehensive investigation going on alongside EDQM (European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines) and EMA (European Medicines Agency).

Current Situation

Since the investigation is still ongoing, the manager of MHRA stated that hasn’t been any clear evidence so far that these blood pressure medications that contain possible NMBA, NDEA or NDMA have been harmful to the patients.  For now, these recalls are simply a precautionary measure till the investigation is complete.

Individuals taking Losartan have been advised to keep on taking the medication because they might be at higher risk if they immediately stopped their treatment without consulting their doctors for an alternative treatment plan.  It is best to consult their physician or pharmacist to determine an alternative blood pressure treatment plan instead of stop taking Losartan altogether.

Alkaline Diet

Alkaline Foods That Can Reduce Your Blood Pressure

What you consume can have a major impact on your overall health.  Eating a more alkaline-based diet can provide numerous benefits to your body 7 Schwalfenberg, Gerry. (2012). The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?. Journal of environmental and public health. 2012. 727630. 10.1155/2012/727630. , which includes protecting you from diseases, improving your cardiovascular health and lowering your high blood pressure.

The following are 10 alkaline foods to include in your diet in order to reduce your blood pressure:

1.   Watermelon

Watermelons are loaded with magnesium and potassium which can play a significant role in lowering your blood pressure.  Potassium acts as a vasodilator, promoting the dilatation of blood vessels which helps in releasing the tension from arteries and blood vessels.  This stimulates high blood flow and reduces the stress on your cardiovascular system. 

Carotenoids, yellow, orange, and red organic pigments which give the characteristic color to fruits and vegatables such as pumpkins, carrots, corn and tomatoes, are also present in watermelon, which prevents the artery veins and walls from hardening, thus, reducing blood pressure.

2.   Plum Tomatoes

Eating one plum tomato every day decreases the risk of high blood pressure.  This is primarily due to the amount of potassium in plum tomatoes which helps in reducing tension in the arteries and vessels, which, in turn, help increase circulation and lowers the stress and pressure placed on your heart.

3.   Walnuts

Studies have proven that eating walnuts can lower bad cholesterol and enhances the good cholesterol level 8 Banel DK, Hu FB. Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(1):56–63. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27457 .  Consuming around 25 grams of walnuts daily is sufficient enough to offer about 90% of the daily recommended amount of essential fatty acids.  As a result, it reduces the chances of heart diseases and high blood pressure.

4.   Rye

Rye is known as a heart-healthy food 9 Lu Wang, J Michael Gaziano, Simin Liu, JoAnn E Manson, Julie E Buring, Howard D Sesso, Whole- and refined-grain intakes and the risk of hypertension in women, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 86, Issue 2, August 2007, Pages 472–479, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/86.2.472 as it contains magnesium which helps control blood pressure and optimize heart health.  Its high levels of soluble fibre can also reduce cholesterol.  It is recommended that you include rye in your everyday diet as it offers a number of essential nutrients needed for your body, including a good amount of mineral and fibre content.

5.   Dandelion Greens

One of the most effective means of reducing blood pressure is by urination 10 Shah SU, Anjum S, Littler WA Use of diuretics in cardiovascular disease: (2) hypertension Postgraduate Medical Journal 2004;80:271-276. .  The majority of modern blood pressure medications are based on this fact.  Dandelion juice is diuretic in nature, which enhances urination in both frequency and quantity.  Thus, it assists in lowering high blood pressure.

6.   Strawberries

Strawberries are also loaded with magnesium and potassium content; both of which can help to reduce blood pressure 11 Feresin, R.G.; Johnson, S.A.; Pourafshar, S.; Campbell, J.C.; Jaime, S.J.; Navaei, N.; Elam, M.L.; Akhavan, N.S.; Alvarez-Alvarado, S.; Tenenbaum, G.; et al. Impact of daily strawberry consumption on blood pressure and arterial stiffness in pre- and stage 1-hypertensive postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Food Funct. 2017, 8, 4139–4149. , which is caused due to inorganic sodium and other risk factors.  This fruit also lowers the rigidity of blood vessels and arteries, which also lowers blood pressure.

7.   Burdock Tea

An unknown fact of burdock tea is its ability to lower blood pressure 12 Lee YJ, Choi DH, Cho GH, Kim JS, Kang DG, Lee HS. Arctium lappa ameliorates endothelial dysfunction in rats fed with high fat/cholesterol diets. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12:116. Published 2012 Aug 6. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-116 .  This plant is high in potassium, which relieves tension from the cardiovascular system and relaxes arteries and blood vessels.  As a result, it helps to prevent strokes, heart attacks, and atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries.

8.   Prickly Pears

Prickly pears are good for your heart 13 Igho, J., Onakpoya, M.D., Jack, O.S., Carl, J.H. 2015. The effect of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors: A systemic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Nutrition. 31, 640–646. .  They also hold a high amount of potassium that can reduce high blood pressure by lowering stress on your cardiovascular system and relaxing your blood vessels.

9.   Tomatillos

Tomatillos consist of a good ratio of sodium and potassium, which can lower your blood pressure.  Potassium helps to relax your blood vessels, decreases the pressure on your cardiovascular system, and also enhances the oxygenation and circulation in your body.

Increased blood pressure can be a major stressor to your body, while also inducing the release of cortisol and other stress organs, which can be harmful to your health.  It is helpful that you include these alkaline foods in your daily diet to help you reduce your blood pressure and maintain overall good health.

Man Vaping

Study Links Vaping to Increased Heart Attack Risk

Vaping has become a trend among young individuals and people generally assume it is safer than traditional cigarettes.  However, a recent study has found that it is linked to an increased heart attack risk. Vapers are more at risk of having a heart attack as compared to nonsmokers. Moreover, they are also at risk of suffering depression and developing coronary artery disease.

The Study

The study 14 Won Hee Lee, Sang-Ging Ong, Yang Zhou, Lei Tian, Hye Ryeong Bae, Natalie Baker, Adam Whitlatch, Leila Mohammadi, Hongchao Guo, Kari C. Nadeau, Matthew L. Springer, Suzaynn F. Schick, Aruni Bhatnagar, Joseph C. Wu Modeling Cardiovascular Risks of E-Cigarettes With Human-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell–Derived Endothelial Cells Journal of the American College of Cardiology Jun 2019, 73 (21) 2722-2737; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.03.476 showed that e-cigarette users are at a 34% greater risk of having a heart attack and 25% more at risk of having a coronary artery disease.  They are also 55% more likely to develop anxiety or depression.

These connections are valid even after managing other cardiovascular risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, body mass index, sex, and age.

While researchers were not able to determine if this damage was done before the usage of e-cigarettes or was done due to vaping, they still believe it is a wakeup call for individuals who believe e-cigarettes are safe.

Researchers further found that no matter the frequency of vaping, whether occasionally or daily, vapers are still at a high risk of developing coronary artery disease and heart attack.  They are also likely to develop circulatory issues, diabetes, and blood pressure.

Young People Are at High Risk

Another study 15 American College of Cardiology. (2019, March 7). Heart attacks increasingly common in young adults: Youngest heart attack survivors have same likelihood of dying as survivors 10+ years older; substance abuse may be contributing to trend. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 4, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190307081026.htm found that while Americans are getting fewer heart attacks, the percentage has drastically increased among individuals younger than 40 years of age.  This indicates that young people are more at risk of a heart attack.

The results showed that 20% of individuals who suffered a heart attack were aged 40 or younger.  This percentage has increased by 2% every year in the past decade.

Many of the heart attack victims are in their 20s and 30s.  This was considered a rare occurrence a few decades ago.  These young individuals have similar risks of dying from a stroke or another heart attack just like elderly patients.

Even if an individual is in their 20s or 30s, after a heart attack, the risk of other cardiovascular issues is higher just like for other elderly patients.  For those of you who remember the actor Luke Perry from the 90s teen TV show “Beverly Hills 90210” and the more recent teen drama “Riverdale” based on the characters of Archie Comics, you’ll remember his massive stroke was shock to many.

Associated Risk Factors

Associated risk factors like high cholesterol, smoking, vaping, high blood pressure, and diabetes are the same among both younger and older individuals who had a heart attack.

While young individuals drink less alcohol as compared to people older than them, they are still likely to use other substances, like cocaine, marijuana and also frequently vape, believing it is safer than traditional cigarettes. 

Precautions to Take

In order to prevent heart attacks, and other health risks, it is essential to stop vaping, avoid tobacco, reduce alcohol intake, and maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise.  It is also important to manage your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

You should also take preventive measures against diabetes since one out of five heart attack patients aged below 50 years are found to have diabetes.  Diabetics have a higher chance of experiencing another heart attack and dying from it as compared to other individuals.

It is therefore, highly recommended that you take preventive measures to improve and maintain your overall health.

Monitoring Blood Pressure

Stroke 101: Things You Should Know

A stroke can be viewed as a brain attack, which can happen at any time, anywhere, and to anyone.  It happens when the flow of blood in the brain is disrupted, resulting in the deprivation of oxygen to the brain cells.  When the brain cells don’t get the oxygen they need, they begin to die.  When this happens during a stroke, the individual’s abilities, including muscle control and memory, that are controlled by that particular area of the brain are lost.  It is important to learn more about stroke, including the causes of stroke, and how to identify when someone is having a stroke to ensure immediate medical treatment is provided to reduce potential damages.  

Causes of Stroke

There can be numerous causes of a stroke.  Typically, the risk factors include usage of illegal drugs, smoking, heavy drinking, inactive lifestyle, family history, and obesity.  The causes can vary depending on the type of stroke.  The two most common types of stroke are:

Ischaemic Stroke – this occurs when the blood and oxygen flow in the brain is stopped due to a blood clot.  The causes of this stroke include:

  • Heavy consumption of alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • High level of cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

Other causes of this stroke include Atrial Fibrillation, which is a kind of irregular heartbeat.

Haemorrhagic Stroke – this occurs when a vein inside the brain bursts, causing internal bleeding.  It is also known as intracranial hemorrhage or cerebral hemorrhage.  The causes of this stroke include:

  • Increased levels of stress
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Obesity

This stroke can also be caused due to abnormal formation of blood vessels or tearing of expanded blood vessels.

How To Identify When Someone Is Having A Stroke

There are various ways to identify if someone is having a stroke.  You can use the FAST method of identifying the signs:

F: Face Drooping

A: Arm Weakness

S: Speaking Difficulties

T: Time to call an ambulance

Some other warning signs include:

  • Weakness or numbness in the leg and face, particularly on one side
  • Increased confusion
  • Inability to understand others
  • Vision problems
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache

If you or anyone around you is experiencing these symptoms, it is best to call for medical attention immediately.

Prevention of Stroke

With the increasing cases of stroke, especially among young individuals, it is important to take measures to reduce your chances of stroke.  In general, you must adopt a healthy lifestyle, which will not only prevent stroke but numerous other health issues.  It is recommended that you take the following measures:

  • Control and maintain your blood pressure
  • Reduce the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol from your diet
  • Stop smoking
  • Control diabetes
  • Maintain your weight
  • Consume a diet loaded with vegetables and fruits
  • Regularly exercise
  • Quit or limit alcohol consumption
  • Avoid illegal drugs
  • Get treated for OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)

It is important to keep yourself educated about the signs and symptoms of stroke.  Moreover, it is essential to take effective measures to reduce your chances of a stroke, especially if you are high at risk.  In case you or someone around you is experiencing these symptoms or signs, get medical attention immediately to prevent major damages. 

Doctor giving patient OK in Health Screening

Screening: Health Benefits and What to Expect

Health screening is an effective way to detect a particular condition or disease early, even when there haven’t been any signs or symptoms of that disease.  Early detection means getting the right treatment at the right time, which gives you better control over your health.  The first time the benefits of screening for disease prevention were demonstrated was in the 1940s s by the use of mass miniature radiography (MMR) for the identification of individuals with tuberculosis (TB).  By the end of the second world war, effective treatment for TB was introduced and the use of MMR became widespread in many western countries this showing the benefits.  Therefore, it is essential to get yourself screened. 

Benefits of Health Screening

Health screenings should be a priority for everyone in order to ensure their optimal health.  Here are some of the main benefits of health screening:

  • It helps in identifying if you are at risk or have any condition or disease that you don’t know about.
  • Early detection of diseases results in better management and treatment of the disease, which decreases the risk of complications and increases the chances of better health outcomes.
  • Age is one of the major risk factors for various life-altering disorders but with the option of early detection and treatment, your body can have the best defense against these diseases.
  • If you have a family history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or stroke, then health screening can help you with the process of prevention and provide you with timely treatments.

If you are under 30 years of age, then it is recommended to get a screening done once every two years.  For individuals 30 years and above, a yearly health screening is highly recommended.  Moreover, for individuals over 50, more screening tests are conducted that are age-related.

Things to Expect from Health Screening

Before you go in for health screening, it is important to understand the process so you are better prepared.  Here are some of the tests that are commonly conducted during health screenings:

  • Blood Pressure Test – This is one of the most important tests your physician will conduct.  In case your blood pressure is tested high, you may have to undergo further tests to detect the cause.
  • Cholesterol Tests – If you are obese, frequently drink alcohol or smoke, your doctor will check your cholesterol level.
  • Diabetes Test – If your blood pressure is high as well as your cholesterol level, or you have a family history of diabetes then you will be checked for diabetes.
  • Mammograms, Osteoporosis and Pap Smear Tests – These tests are conducted for prevention of breast cancers and cervical cancers, along with other disorders that affect women.
  • Colorectal Cancer – For individuals above 50 years of age, with inherited mutations or gene defects, inflammatory bowel disorder, and colorectal polyps, this test is highly recommended.
  • Prostate Cancer Tests – Men who have higher levels of testosterone, are obese, and/or are above 50 years of age must get themselves tested for prostate cancer.
  • STDs – For individuals who are sexually active, especially with more than one sexual partner, these screenings are highly recommended. 

Typically, a health screening session may take about 30 minutes or half a day, depending on how many tests the doctor wants to conduct as per your situation.  Other common tests include blood tests, x-rays, urinalysis, and fecalysis. Early detection of any disease or condition can help to prevent it from advancing into a chronic disorder.  Moreover, complications can also be avoided through health screenings.  This means you can also avoid mortality and morbidity, as well as higher treatment costs later on.

Fitness Trainer Assisting Elderly Man

Regular Exercise Reduces High Blood Pressure

As you grow older, the risk of hypertension increases.  This means it is essential to take necessary precautions to control and prevent high blood pressure.  Recent studies have revealed that exercise can play a major role in helping you control high blood pressure.  This certainly doesn’t mean running a marathon or even joining a gym, just a few minutes of physical activity every day can do wonders.  

The Studies

A study 16 Naci H, Salcher-Konrad M, Dias S, et al How does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressure British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 18 December 2018. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099921 published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, highlighted that one or more in every four UK adults experience high blood pressure.  This is a significant risk factor for heart attack or stroke.  While it is more common among the elderly, it can still affect anyone regardless of age.  The study found that regular exercise can be as effective as the majority of available medications in controlling blood pressure.

Another study 17 Effect of Exercise and Pharmacological Interventions on Visceral Adiposity: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Long-term Randomized Controlled Trials.  Rao, Shreya et al.  Mayo Clinic Proceedings , Volume 94 , Issue 2 , 211 – 224 focused on the levels of visceral fat, which is the type of fat that isn’t visible on the outside but instead covers various internal organs.  High levels of visceral fat can be extremely harmful to health and result in a number of health issues, including high blood pressure.

The study found that while both medication and exercise can help in decreasing visceral fat, regular exercise offered the most advantages.  Additionally, modifying the diet is another effective way of reducing body fat and obesity.

As you start losing visceral fat, your risk of high blood pressure decreases and you can also overcome numerous other illnesses associated with high amount of body fat.

Exercising to Reduce Blood Pressure

So, how often do you have to exercise to reduce fat and control blood pressure?

It is best to aim for moderate activity, which can include brisk walking for 30 minutes for at least five days a week.  If you are unable to exercise for 30 minutes then you can opt for shorter but more vigorous physical activity, for instance jogging for 10 to 20 minutes for three to four days a week.

If you have been inactive for a long period of time, it is best to start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity.  Here is what you should do:

  1. Start with warming up your body.  This should take five to ten minutes of stretching and other warm up exercises that can help your body prepare for the workout and prevent any potential injuries.
  2. Slowly increase the intensity.  Don’t try to overdo it.  Keep in mind that while exercising, you should still be able to talk.  If you can sing then you need to turn it up a notch.
  3. After the workout, give your body time to cool down.  Avoid stopping the workout suddenly. Decrease the intensity for the next few minutes till you feel your heartbeat getting normal.

An inactive lifestyle has been associated with an increase in blood pressure.  Therefore, it is important to include regular workouts as part of your daily activities.  Regular activity will help in reducing blood pressure and can be as good as any blood pressure medication.  In case of any confusion, it is best to consult your doctor to determine the right fitness plan for you.

Equipment to Check Blood Pressure

New Guidance For Hypertension Consultation

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has made a major change in the blood pressure guidance last published in 201118 Hypertension in adults: diagnosis and management – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) . The draft guidelines 19 Hypertension in adults: diagnosis and management, Draft for consultation, March 2019 – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend the threshold of hypertension treatment should be reduced, which makes more than 450,000 men and 270,000 women eligible for blood pressure treatment.  This means that an increased number of individuals would be offered drugs to lower blood pressure as a means to prevent strokes and heart attacks. This guidance has been released for consultation till April, 30 and is expected to be finalized by August 2019.

Previous Guidelines and New Recommendations

According to the NICE recommended guidance from 2011, drugs for lowering blood pressure should be given to individuals under 80 years of age who are suffering from stage one hypertension and are at 20% or more risk of cardiovascular disease in the next ten years.

As per the new recommendations, NICE has recommended offering blood pressure lowering drugs to patients with 10% or more risk of cardiovascular disease.

Stage one hypertension is when there isn’t any identifiable reason behind the increase in blood pressure.  It might be associated with different factors, including genetics, physical activity, salt intake, or obesity.

According to the guideline committee chairman, Anthony Wierzbicki 20 Thousands set to benefit from blood pressure treatment under new NICE guidance – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) , these changes in the guidelines have resulted in updating the previous recommendations for early intervention of hypertension and is expected to make major differences in the lives of patients suffering from this condition.

The Reason

The recommended new guidelines will shift the focus effectively towards early intervention with either drug treatment or lifestyle treatment.  The aim is to reduce the age-related blood pressure issues and help patients live a longer life with reduced need for consuming multiple drugs.

Hypertension is one of the leading causes of strokes and heart attacks in the country, but countless individuals are not undiagnosed.

The early diagnosis of blood pressure will result in earlier treatment and prevention as per the NICE recommended guidelines, which will save the lives of thousands while also enhancing the quality of their lives.  This is the aim of the new changes in the guidelines and to enhance the management and detection of high blood pressure in the next ten years.

Taking these steps for preventing cardiovascular disease is an important step to safeguard their long-term well-being and health.

Concerns Regarding New Recommendations

While these new guidelines will help with the early detection, many experts have raised concerns about unintended harm and over-diagnosis issues of offering prescribed medications to patients when the advantages might be restricted.

They believe that to lower the threshold of hypertension diagnosis, which is a condition that affects a major number of individuals in the country, it is essential to ensure that this decision is evidence-based and not taken lightly.

A major chunk of the population is already suffering from undiagnosed hypertension, which means they are at high risk of a deadly stroke or heart attack.  Therefore, it is essential to enhance the diagnosis around the country, but it is also important to make sure that the changes will actually improve the quality of lives of the patients and not put them at more risk.

Low Carb Diet

Low Carb Diet is Putting You at Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

There is no shortage of diets out there and you probably have tried at least one of them.  A popular one is the low carb diet such as Ketogenic (Keto) that many follow in hopes of losing weight and staying healthy fast.  However, a recent study has suggested that over time a low carb diet can increase the risk of Atrial Fibrillation.  Anything done in extreme is never good and while a high amount of carbohydrates is bad for the health, so is too little.

Atrial Fibrillation

This is a disorder in which the rhythm of the heartbeat is affected.  In this disorder, the heartbeat of the individual quivers frequently.  This happens because the heart is not pumping blood properly, which can cause blood pools and the formation of clots.  If any of these blood clots ruptures, it can travel up to the brain causing a stroke.

The Study

According to the study 21 Zhuang, Xiaodong & Zhang, Shaozhao & Zhou, Huimin & Du, Zhimin & Liao, Xinxue. (2019). U-Shaped Relationship Between Carbohydrate Intake Proportion And Incident Atrial Fibrillation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 73. 4. 10.1016/S0735-1097(19)33766-0. , individuals who consume less than 45% calories from carbohydrates have an 18% higher chance of developing Atrial Fibrillation as compared to individuals who consumed moderate amounts of carbohydrates.  The researchers stated that this risk still exists even when those carbohydrates are replaced with protein.

In this study, data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health study was reviewed, which included around 14,000 individuals.  None of those individuals had Atrial Fibrillation at the start of the study.  However, after 22 years, around 1,900 of those individuals had developed Atrial Fibrillation.

All the individuals filled out a diet-related survey and were divided into high carb, moderate carb, and low carb intake.  The findings showed that both high and low carb intake was associated with an increased risk of Atrial Fibrillation and premature deaths.

Possible Causes

While the main aim of this study was to merely find a link rather than a cause and effect, the researchers pointed out that there can be several reasons these negative consequences occur due to the low carb diet.

The low carb diet results in rapid loss of weight, which is achieved by flushing out the fluids from your body.  This can lead to dehydration, which is one of the causes of Atrial Fibrillation.  Moreover, these diets might also lead to electrolyte abnormalities that affect the rhythm of the heartbeats.

The research also highlighted the fact that in low carb diets, individuals consume fewer amounts of grains, fruits, and vegetables; which are the foods that reduce the inflammation in the body.  As a result, individuals on a low carb diet experience a high level of inflammation, which is also associated with Atrial Fibrillation.

What To Do Instead

There are various versions of law carb diets that people follow.  Some individuals restrict the consumption of desserts, pastas, and bread which can be good for health.  However, some diets call for limiting the consumption of healthy foods like legumes, fruits, and vegetables.  This means that they are not getting sufficient amounts of fibre and nutrients.

When it comes to dieting, it is important to follow a well-balanced diet which includes seeds, nuts, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.  The diets which are more plant based reduce the risk of many health issues.

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.