With All my Heart: Hypertension and Heart Health (Part 2)

Last week we talked about global body shipping and how high blood pressure (also called hypertension) can damage our body. This week we’ll look at the leading causes of hypertension and what we can do about them.

Atherosclerosis – This is a big word that I like to call Gather-old-Playdoh-sis. You know how new Playdoh is soft and pliable and so pretty you just want to eat it? That’s how blood vessels are supposed to be. Over time Playdoh hardens and shrinks as it dries out and that’s what happens in your blood vessels. Blood vessel linings gets pot holes, cholesterol fills in the pot holes and hardens there like Playdoh, and then your blood vessel can’t expand and contract easily like it used to.

Atherosclerosis can be prevented or slowed by exercising and eating a diet high in plant parts. Diet and exercise prevent pot holes from forming and reduce the amount of fat Playdoh in the blood looking for a pot hole. Science isn’t sure if hypertension increases atherosclerosis or if atherosclerosis increases hypertension. They do know that exercise and eating greens helps decrease both. It’s kind of like the “What came first: the chicken or the egg?” debate. Answer? Doesn’t matter; they’re both delicious. Eat your greens and move your body and don’t worry about it.

Sleep Apnea – More than half of people with hypertension also have sleep apnea, so scientists are pretty sure there’s a connection. (Let’s face it: when we talk about the human body, there is always a connection.) High blood pressure can trigger sleep apnea which causes poor sleep or a lack of sleep which raises your blood pressure which can trigger sleep apnea. A doctor can direct you to a helpful mask to improve your sleep. You can also lose weight and exercise.

Smoking and Drinking – Stop smoking and don’t drink more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day. Yes, I am a party pooper.

Too much salt – Remember how your blood vessel walls are made of smooth muscle? Blood pressure is all about those wall muscles being able to relax to let blood flow. For the walls to relax and contract regularly, they need regulators: namely the Three Musketeers (or the Three MagCalPots): magnesium, calcium, and potassium. There is a connection between hypertension and insufficient magnesium, calcium, and potassium and it may have something to do with salt.

You see, Salt is supposed to be the fourth musketeer, but he went off and recruited so many many many of his friends that they turned evil and wrought havoc. The Three Musketeers must be present to balance out Salt and his friends; if there aren’t enough of the Three MagCalPots, then Salt wins and blood pressure goes up. You can help the Musketeers by putting less salt and more magnesium, calcium, and potassium in your mouth.

By the way, it’s recommended that you eat no more than 1 teaspoon (2300 mg) of sodium (salt) each day. The ideal goal is 1500 mg, but Americans eat so much sodium that even cutting down to 2300 is a plus. Be aware that 75% of the sodium most of us eat is in processed, pre-packaged, and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker.

Genetics and Family History – hypertension runs in the family. If hypertension runs in your family, it’s even more important that you exercise and eat well. Sorry. Maybe you also inherited a sharp wit or great hair.

 

Note: I should to point out that the medical community isn’t 100% sure what causes hypertension. They observe connections between hypertension and heart attacks, atherosclerosis, sleep apnea, etc., and make highly educated guesses. They also observe the connections between healthy habits and improved hypertension and make highly educated recommendations. What is 100% certain? We can take hypertension as the warning sign it is and make healthy changes.

 

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  2 Corinthians 1:8b, 9b

 

References:

Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868

Web MD https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/blood-pressure-causes#1

Calcium and hypertension https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2448982

Calcium and hypertension https://www.livestrong.com/article/149390-calcium-and-hypertension/

Potassium and Calcium https://www.everydayhealth.com/hypertension/get-your-minerals.aspx

Calcium https://www.healthcentral.com/article/lower-high-blood-pressure-with-calcium

Sodium https://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/how_much_sodium_should_i_eat

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