Hypertension Prevention and the Low Sodium Diet
Blood pressure is the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels, and is one of many vital signs measured by doctors in a normal checkup. A blood pressure measure includes two numbers that reveal the amount of pressure on the walls of the arteries. Arteries are vessels that carry blood from the heart to other organs in the body.
When you have your blood pressure checked, your doctor might tell you, for example, that your blood pressure is "120 over 80."
The top number, or numerator, is known as your systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood forward. The bottom number, or denominator, is the measure of diastolic pressure in the arteries after the heart relaxes from a contraction.
Normal blood pressure is about 120 over 80. Blood pressure between 120 over 80 and 139 over 89 is known as "pre hypertension," and any measurement above 140 over 90 is considered high blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition that is a result of high pressure or tension in the arteries.
If your blood pressure is too high, you increase your risk of developing heart disease, hardening of the arteries, eye damage, and brain damage by stroke. This is why hypertension prevention is important.
Causes of Hypertension
A blood pressure increase can be due to a variety of causes. In cases of stress, such as before delivering a speech or overexerting muscles, your blood pressure reading would be naturally high.
Continued stress levels are unhealthy and definitely require a change of lifestyle in order to keep your blood pressure at a healthy, non-hypertension level. Unfortunately, most cases of hypertension cannot be attributed to one single cause.
Although we now know quite a lot about hypertension prevention, hypertension statistics reveal that less than one fifth of the five hundred million cases of hypertension are controlled through treatment.
According to the same hypertension statistics, those one hundred million hypertensive patients receiving some form of treatment have blood pressures linked directly to their salt content. The best treatment in these cases is a low sodium diet consisting of limiting salt to no more than 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon) of salt per day.
Low Sodium Diets
In the 1960s, scientist Lewis Dahl conducted a study of hypertension in five geographically distinct populations. He measured the subjects’ daily salt intakes and noted that blood pressure was directly related to salt consumption.
Since then, numerous studies have shown a direct link between salt and high blood pressure, but other factors can reduce blood pressure in some patients. An increase in potassium is one example.
A low sodium diet typically includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, and unprocessed grains. Hypertension patients are encouraged to avoid salty snacks such as chips and peanuts, and to use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to their favorite dishes. Convenience foods and processed foods are the worst culprits in the fight against high sodium content foods.
Genetic Testing and Hypertension
Recent DNA research has identified genes associated with salt sensitivity. Genetic profiling has been used to study the causes of hypertension, particularly salt sensitivity, in rats.
Geneticists have compared the genes of two strains of rats that are essentially salt resistant or salt sensitive. They used their results to identify the genes that are involved in salt handling, opening the door to the identification of human genes that may indicate a predisposition to salt sensitivity.
Certain genetic mutations appear to increase renal (kidney) sodium re-absorption and therefore increase blood pressure. Such findings may help scientists discover new approaches in the treatment of hypertension.
A genetic test can determine the presence of hypertension, specifically salt-sensitive cases.
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