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Blood Pressure Basics

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is defined as the force of circulating blood on the walls of the arteries and is regulated by two factors: cardiac output and total peripheral vascular resistance, whereas cardiac output is a function of stroke volume x heart rate and peripheral resistance is caused by chronic vasoconstriction, narrowing arterioles or by vascular plaque buildup.(1)

What causes essential hypertension (high blood pressure)?

90% of all case hypertension are considered essential or primary hypertension. There is no known cause, contrasting secondary hypertension which in most cases, is the results of another problem such as renal, cardiovascular, endocrine or neurogenic disorders. It is hypothesized that essential hypertension may be connected to lifestyle factors such as levels of physical exercise, diet, stress and smoking. These lifestyle factors may also be influenced by genetic factors.(2)

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

It is common to be asymptomatic as early-stage hypertension usual presents itself without symptoms and has also been referred to as the “silent killer”. Failure to treat hypertension can lead to symptoms such as vision problems, decreased left ventricular ejection fraction, ventricular arrythmias and sudden cardiac death.(2)

What factors are used to diagnose hypertension?

A reading at or above 140/90 mmHg is considered hypertension. Failure to treat hypertension could result in congestive heart failure, kidney failure, myocardial infarction, stroke or aneurysms.(2)

List factors that increase the risk for developing hypertension.

Factors that are said to contribute to increasing the risk for hypertension include obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, cigarette smoking, lack of physical activity, age and family history. Many diseases and disorders could also contribute to the development of hypertension. This type of hypertension would be classified as secondary hypertension.(2)

How is hypertension treated medically and nutritionally?

Options can include both medical and nutritional intervention as a treatment plan. The aim of the medical treatment is to reduce blood pressure by altering either cardiac output or peripheral resistance using “loop” diuretics, which will inhibit sodium, chloride, and potassium reabsorption in the kidney. Loop diuretics also increase prostaglandins which will result in vasodilation.

Nutritional intervention will include continued physical activity, weight loss and a reduction in excessive sodium and alcohol. It is advisable that people focus on a diet that has proper energy intake, avoidance of inappropriate fats, excessive sodium, with adequate amounts of fiber, potassium, magnesium and calcium.(2)

Dan Tatro, M.S.-CSCS, CEO Patriot Fitness Academy

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1. Liguori G. ACSMs Resources for the Health Fitness Specialist. Indianapolis, IN: American College of Sports Medicine; 2014.

2. Nelms, M, Sucher, K, Lacey, K., & Roth, S, Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology: Dietary Treatments of Chronic Diseases for the Public Health Nutritionist. 2nd ed., Mason, OH: Cengage Learning Custom Solutions, 2011. ISBN: 9781133690085.

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