High blood pressure can be caused by high level of stress over a period of time. This is the biggest contributor when compared to other causes like inactivity or lack of exercise, eating unhealthy/processed foods, consuming excess salt, alcohol, tobacco and coffee. Regular consumption of supplements or unprescribed drugs also trigger stress in certain cases.
Understanding blood pressure
The heart pumps blood to the entire body and is responsible for circulation. Blood which is utilized, comes back to the heart. It gets oxygenated and is pumped to various parts of the body through all the blood vessels. So the heart actually is a pump in its true sense. However, it is a pump, which never stops working till you are dead. The blood is pushed through the blood vessels by the pump. The strength of the pressure exerted on the sides of these vessels is called blood pressure. When the blood is pushed out to the body, there is pressure which expands the vessels. This is followed by contraction of the vessels when the blood is not pushed through.
There is therefore, a constant pulsating of the pump (heart). When the heart squeezes or contracts, it pushes out blood to the body with force. This is the systolic blood pressure and is the higher number. When the heart relaxes, blood rushes in. At this stage, the blood vessels are more relaxed. This is known as the diastolic blood pressure.
Idle Blood Pressure
The benchmark for blood pressure for an average, healthy young adult is 120/80. This varies based on age and basic constitution. If you are in the adolescent years, this could be a little higher due to higher hormonal as well as physical activities. If you are also much older with no other health problems, then even a pressure of up to 145 / 95 is fine.
A person is said to be pre-hypertensive when the arterial pressure consistently remains above 140/90 for two to three months. This phase could be temporary and can be managed through lifestyle changes and managing stress. If this phase continues and there is no reduction, then the individual may be put on medication. If the blood pressure remains at these levels even after light medication and lifestyle changes, the person is diagnosed has having clinical or chronic high blood pressure.
Today, it is estimated that a large part of the population is pre-hypertensive, even though they do not have clinical blood pressure. Even children below the age of twelve are getting high blood pressure in increasing numbers.
What causes high blood pressure?
High levels of prolonged stress over a period of time, causes blood pressure to rise; and stay there. This is the biggest contributor to high blood pressure. Today we are all stressed about something or the other. Recent WHO studies have indicated that an estimated ninty percent of the World’s population is facing actual, clinical stress. Even children are stressed about academics, career, parental pressure and peer pressure. It is estimated that almost ten percent of the world’s children have hypertension.
We have all become physically inactive. Children no longer want to play and parents encourage them to sit at home. We give tablets and play consoles to children so they become physically inactive. We also work more at the work station and do not take any time for even walking. We have also stopped doing housework, thanks to ready-made food options and gadgets at home. Lack of exercise makes the arteries less elastic leading to high blood pressure.
We all have the wrong kind of food. Most of our food is packaged, pre-prepared, preserved and processed food, junk food, outside food or takeaways. All such food is very unhealthy even though they may be labelled otherwise. All food from a package of any kind is not good.
Further, we have very high amounts of preservatives, refined flour, oil and cheese. All of these are heavy and cause immense pressure on the body.
Salt is the biggest culprit. Everything we eat has natural salt. All junk food, fried, packaged and hidden food has a lot of salt. Even so called health food and salads from outside have a lot of salt. It is estimated that without realizing, we consume three to four times the maximum recommended sodium intake.
Alcohol consumption is considered to be normal and on the rise. Apart from its properties which cause fat retention, diabetes, liver and cardiac problems, alcohol consumption also increases blood pressure.
Use of any kind of tobacco products; whether cigarettes, cigars, beedis or chewable tobacco and snuff, all cause high blood pressure.
Coffee consumption is increasing rapidly across the world. Coffee is a slow and silent killer. In fact, it is as damaging as alcohol and tobacco. It disturbs the body’s metabolism completely and causes high physiological stress. Do not be too surprised if you get hypertension even though you eat well, exercise and are apparently fit. It could be because you have more than two small cups of coffee in a day.
Supplements and Neutraceuticals
We have all started consuming supplements, herbs and neutraceuticals without understanding the damage they can do. All of these are medicines and have to be taken under guidance from a doctor or ayurveda doctor. These products cause extra pressure and work load on the heart, increasing blood pressure. One such example is green tea. Even though it is good for health, having a couple of cups in a day is fine. If you start having more than three small cups, it will actually cause the heart to beat faster.
The causes of high blood pressure are stress, high levels of competition, lack of exercise, bad eating habits, excess salt retention, emotional problems, obesity, having alcohol, use of tobacco products, coffee, processed and junk food, high intake of salt and sugar and indiscriminate use of supplements.
However, it is not as bleak as it sounds. Blood pressure can be prevented, reduced or managed through healthy eating, sleeping well, relaxation and Yoga.