Hypertension is deadly. And in half of high blood pressure patients, medications are not enough to reach normal levels. Three small changes in lifestyle could prevent 50 percent of strokes and heart attacks and work better than antihypertensives.
The fatal risk of high blood pressure is underestimated: 2.2 million women and 1.8 million men in Europe die each year as a result of high blood pressure, especially stroke and heart attack. “About 50 percent of myocardial infarctions and strokes would be avoidable if hypertension were diagnosed in good time and optimally counteracted,” says Prof. Martin Halle, medical director of the Center for Prevention and Sports Medicine at the Technical University of Munich and member of the scientific advisory board of the German Heart Foundation.
The optimal blood pressure value is not the limit
Only blood pressure levels above 140/90 mmHg are considered too high according to the applicable European guidelines. “However, the optimal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg,” says the professor. The unit of measurement mmHg is known to be the millimetre (mm), which allows the pressure of the blood to rise to one mercury column.
Frequently, patients are satisfied if the blood pressure is 140/90 or slightly lower. “But it’s not always a good idea to scratch along the upper limit,” warns the cardiologist, advising him not to aim for the limit, but the top score of 120/80 mmHg.
Even slightly elevated blood pressure damages the vessels
Already ten or 20 mmHg more stress the vessels, damage them in the long run and trigger as a result of cardiovascular events. Only with the best value of 120/80 mmHg, the vessels are not unfavourably loaded. If the blood pressure is 20 or even 40 mm more, the negative effect can be illustrated with an example, as Martin Halle explains: If the blood pressure reaches 160 instead of 120, the mercury column rises four centimeters higher than normal.
But blood is much thinner than mercury. For a water column to increase by the comparable 50 centimeters, a lot of power is needed. Now, if a person tries to reach that 50 centimeters in the gauge with a syringe every heartbeat, he is exhausted after a minute. However, this is the power that the heart must constantly deliver in high blood pressure. “The difference between a blood pressure of 160 and 120 is enormous and puts a great strain on the heart,” says the cardiologist. At the same time, the high-pressure overloads and damages the vessels.
Deadly consequences for the brain, kidneys and twice for the heart
This affects especially the vessels in the brain, the heart, and the kidneys. Thus, a vessel may burst in the brain (stroke), in the heart (heart attack) and, if the vessels in the kidneys fail gradually, kidney failure sets in, with the consequence of dialysis dependence.
Even less well-known is that high blood pressure additionally damages the heart muscle in the long term. “The heart muscle has to constantly fight against the high pressure, he is thus liberating,” says Halle. The electrical center in the heart is also worn out, as a result, it comes to cardiac arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation. The tendency to clots increases thereby, it can form thrombi. If they clog vessels, it arises depending on localization, heart attack, stroke or embolism, such as in leg or groin.
What is also often overlooked: Stroke and heart attack are not harmless diseases. “50 percent end up dying sooner or later, with the others, a stroke often results in marked frailty, after the heart attack it comes to significant performance losses,” warns the cardiologist.
The three main causes of hypertension
But hypertension affects almost every third person. “Hypertension has become a disease,” warns the professor.
The reasons why hypertension affects more and more people are obvious.
- lack of exercise
- wrong diet
are the trailblazers for the overpressure in the vessels. As these factors increase, hypertension, medical hypertension, occurs more frequently. “Above all, our diet with sausage, cheese, and bread, optimal blood pressure is not just beneficial, because these foods contain too much salt,” one of the most important risk factors for hypertension