Hypertension or high blood pressure, as it is more commonly known, is regarded as a silent killer. It is a disease of the modern age. The fast pace of life and the mental and physical pressures caused by the increasingly industrialised and metropolitan environments have a role to play in the rise in blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured with an instrument called sphygno- manometer in millimetres of mercury. The highest pressure reached during each heart beat is called systolic pressure, and the lowest between two beats is known as diastolic pressure. Most young adults have blood pressure around 120/80. It increases normally with age, even going up to 160/90.
Causes and Symptoms
The first symptom of hypertension may appear as a pain at the back of the head and neck on waking in the morning, which soon disappears. Some of the other common symptoms are dizziness, palpitations, pain in the region of the heart, frequent urination, nervous tension, fatigue, and difficulty in breathing.
The chief causes of high blood pressure are stress and a faulty style of living. Smoking and an excessive intake of intoxicants, tea, coffee, and refined foods destroy the natural pace of life and prevent the expulsion of waste and poisonous matter from the body. Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), obesity, and diabetes lead to hypertension. Other causes of high blood pressure are an excessive intake of common table salt, and eating a high fat and low fibre diet.
Garlic: Garlic is regarded as an effective means of lowering blood pressure. It is said to reduce spasms of the small arteries. It also slows down the pulse rate and modifies the heart rhythm, besides relieving the symptoms of dizziness, numbness, shortness of breath, and the formation of gas within the digestive tract. It may be taken in the form of raw cloves or two to three capsules a day. Indian Gooseberry: Indian gooseberry is another effective remedy for high blood pressure. A tablespoon each of fresh amla juice and honey mixed together should be taken every morning in this condition.
Lemon: Lemon is also regarded as a valuable food to control high blood pressure. It is a rich source of vitamin P which is found both in the juice and peel of the fruit. This vitamin is essential for preventing capillary fragility.
Grapefruit: Grapefruit is useful in preventing high blood pressure. The vitamin P content in the fruit is helpful in toning up the arteries.
Watermelon: Watermelon is another valuable safeguard against high blood pressure. A substance extracted from watermelon seeds is said to have a definite action in dilating the blood vessels, which results in lowering the blood pressure. The seeds, dried and roasted, should be taken in liberal quantities.
Rice: Rice has a low-fat, low-cholesterol, and low-salt content. It makes a perfect diet for those hypertensive persons who have been advised salt-restricted diets. Calcium in brown rice, in particular, soothes and relaxes the nervous system and helps relieve the symptoms of high blood pressure.
Potato: Potatoes, specially in boiled form, are a valuable food for lowering blood pressure. When boiled with their skin, they absorb very little salt. Thus they can form a useful addition to a salt-free diet recommended for patients with high blood pressure. Potatoes are rich in potassium but not in sodium salts. The magnesium present in the vegetable exercises beneficial effects in lowering blood pressure.
Parsley: Parsley is very useful in high blood pressure. It contains elements which help maintain the blood vessels, particularly, the capillaries. It keeps the arterial system in a healthy condition. It may be taken as a beverage by simmering 20 gm of fresh parsley leaves gently in 250 ml of water for a few minutes. This may be drunk several times daily.
Rauwolfia: Among the herbs, rauwolfia is the best remedy for high blood pressure. Alkaloids of this drug, which have a direct effect on hypertension, have been isolated and are being widely used by practitioners of modem medicine, but they have certain unpleasant side-effects which the drug, taken in raw form, does not have. Practitioners of the Indian system of medicine have, therefore, preferred to use the root of the drug in a powdered form. Half a teaspoon of this drug, taken thrice a day, is very effective in hypertension.
Vegetable Juices: Raw vegetable juices, especially carrot and spinach juices, taken separately or in combination, are also beneficial in the treatment of high blood pressure. If taken in combination, 300 ml of carrot juice and 200 ml of spinach juice should be mixed to make 500 ml or half a litre of the juice, and taken daily. If taken separately, one glass should be taken twice daily, morning and evening.
Dietary Calcium and Potassium: Recent studies have revealed an important link between dietary calcium and potassium and hypertension. Researchers have found that people who take potassium-rich diets have a low incidence of hypertension even if they do not control their salt intake. They have also found that people with hypertension do not seem to get much calcium in the form of dairy products. These two essential nutrients seem to help the body secrete excess sodium and are involved in important functions which control the working of the vascular system. Potassium is found in abundance in fruits and vegetables, and calcium in dairy products.
Persons with high blood pressure should always follow a well- balanced routine of a proper diet, exercise, and rest Diet is of primary importance. Meat and eggs, more than any other food, cause the blood pressure to rise. The pressure can be lowered and blood clotting diminished by increasing the consumption of fruits, reducing protein intake, and sticking to a vegetarian diet A natural diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables instead of a traditional diet, helps to get rid of the toxins from the body. Salt should be avoided; in any case, it should not exceed more than three grams or about half a teaspoon per day.
Persons suffering from hypertension must get at least eight hours of good sleep, because proper rest is a vital aspect of the treatment. Most important of all, the patient must avoid overstrain, worries, tension, anger, and haste. He or she must develop a calm and cheerful attitude and develop a contented frame of mind.