Hypertension: The Silent Killer

Killer with gun
In clinic, a 45 year old man comes in for an office visit and his blood pressure was 150/90. He states he feels fine and is not worried about his blood pressure. He admits to working a high demanding job, always stressed about finances, eating processed foods on the go and finding himself staying up after a few drinks on the couch every evening. How many of you agree, he is young, without symptoms, so he shouldn’t worry?
Well, I said “Let’s talk high blood pressure!”.

High Blood Pressure is A Silent Killer

WHEN: You Wait Too Long
This silent killer sneaks into your body.  Insidiously, causes insult to the endothelial layer of the artery causing chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Like a garden hose in the sun, your arteries get thickened, stiff and cracked. Now imagine hooking up your sun-weathered, fissured garden hose to a fire hydrant and watering your delicate flowers! Your damaged arteries carry precious cargo (oxygen and nutrients) to the entire body, most importantly, the brain, heart and kidneys (your flowers). Constantly running highly pressurized blood through them causes injury to your tender organs. High blood pressure causes severe damage leading to STROKE, HEART ATTACKS and KIDNEY FAILURE. Disabling diseases that lead to dialysis, heart failure and paralysis.
HOW: Do you know if you are a TARGET?
First time BP reading should be done in both arms, with arms bare, at heart level, with the appropriate cuff size. Always sit and rest for 5 minutes before taking your BP. 
Pre-hypertension: 120 to 139 / 80-89
Hypertension: >140/ 90
*For those aged ≥ 60 years of age unless diabetic or kidney disease: >150/90
Listen up! The risk of cardiovascular events increases 2.5 fold in women and 1.6 fold in men with pre-hypertension, so start early with prevention.
WHO: Watch Out For These Intruders!
1. Processed Food
Inevitably, every patient will say the same thing, “Doc, I don’t add salt to anything”. But alas, they fail to see that salt has already been added to everything for us. If it is processed, packaged, ready-to-eat or restaurant food then it is bad for blood pressure.
Ready for a quiz?
 Q1. Which one of these has the most sodium?
A. Totinos Pepperoni Party Pizza Frozen
B. 1 cup of boneless, extra lean ham
C. Two Ball Park Hot dogs
Q2. Do you read nutrition labels?
A. Yes, I line up all my food so I can see the labels
B. No, labels what labels?
(Answers: *ham 1684mg, pizza 1380mg,  hotdogs 1100mg. Your daily allowance is 2000mg/day.
 If it has a nutrition label, it is processed. Log your daily intake of food in an app or website like My Fitness Pal to keep track of sodium and make changes to real whole food.)
2. Stress, Sleep & Sitting 
Genes can load the gun, BUT lifestyle fires the bullets!
Stress, smoking, excessive alcohol, obesity, poor sleep and a sedentary lifestyle leads to a quick path to stroke and heart disease. Take the first step to identify your reasons for change and set a course to make it happen.
WHAT: What are your weapons to STOP your assailant?

1. Nutrition   

Follow a DASH diet (Diet Against Systolic Hypertension) with whole food and 8-10 vegetables & fruit.  Fresh is best, frozen is okay, but avoid canned food. Researchers found that the DASH diet was associated with a drop in Systolic blood pressure (SBP) by an average of 6-11 mmHg and DBP by 3-6 mmHg. And a DASH-like diet significantly protects against cardiovascular diseases (20%), coronary heart disease (21%), heart failure (29%) and stroke (19%).
2. Add Foods and Micronutrients
A) Potassium & Magnesium rich foods– sweet potatoes, oranges, milk, beans, spinach, bananas, tomatoes, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and whole grains.
B) Calcium & Vit D3 rich foods-vegetables, fortified dairy products, fortified non-dairy products, and fish.
A) Teas such as parsley, hibiscus, dandelion
B) Foods such as beet root and garlic
C) Supplements such as grape seed extract, CoQ10
3. Lifestyle Changes
 Find time in the day to do deep breath work, or listen to music. Get at least 30 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise on all or most days of the week. Try out meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong to help reduce stress and increase exercise. Quit SMOKING! If you struggle with weight loss and daytime fatigue, maybe get a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea. Walking is free. Do squats in your kitchen, in front of your TV, dance in your living room. Make it fun, do it for yourself and find reasons why your health matters.
4. Prescription Medications
Seek the care of a board certified healthcare provider to partner with you. Medications can be an adjunct to a healthy lifestyle, not a substitution. Often, patients will feel that being on medications is like having a safety net and so they continue eating poorly, not exercising or managing their stress. Medications rig the system to lower the pressure, but bad habits are still causing inflammation leading to organ disease, accelerated aging, starving your cells of important nutrients. Medical treatment for high blood pressure MUST be paired with weight loss, good nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and elimination of tobacco and heavy alcohol products. 
There are no victims, only volunteers. You chose your diet and lifestyle, it didn’t choose you. I know, staying the same is easy. Change is hard. Change happens when staying the same causes more fear than the process of change. To climb any mountain, it is important to take the first step.  How are you going to start your journey to good health?

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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

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