According to the journal, Circulation 2015, 1 out of 3 adults has hypertension (high blood pressure.) It also states that 1 out of three adults has pre-hypertension (borderline high blood pressure.) With such a large percentage of the population suffering these health conditions, what is the consumers perspective of these diagnoses? In most cases they believe:
it isn’t terribly dangerous because it rarely produces significant symptoms
prescription medication normalizes blood pressure
it runs in the family and is likely genetic
it just happens as we age
is a common disorder that doctors treat on a regular basis
How accurate is the consumer’s view about this disorder? The following will address each of the 5 points mentioned above:
1. Most people are unaware they have high blood pressure because this condition frequently lacks symptoms. This is why it is known in the health care field as:
THE SILENT KILLER!
The consumer equates good health as a state of health that lacks symptoms. This is a very dangerous belief. The body will attempt to compensate for developing problems, but this doesn’t mean that underlying problems do not exist. If blood vessels become damaged or blocked, the heart will work harder to pump more blood to compensate for the restricted flow. This strain on the heart causes it to enlarge (because it is a muscle) and thicken reducing its ability to efficiently and effectively circulate blood throughout the body. This, however, does not produce pain or other identifiable symptoms early in the process. Ultimately, conditions begin to manifest that create dangerous life altering outcomes including: (a) clots from plaque damage to the arteries that migrate to the heart and brain causing heart attack and stroke, (b) arterial rupture from internal pressure causing dissecting aneurysms, and (c) kidney destruction from decreased blood flow causing irreversible damage to the kidney filtering system resulting in toxicity and death. Most people are unaware of all these facts and these complications from high blood pressure; a condition perceived as not very dangerous.
2. Prescription medication ALTERS THE NORMAL FUNCTION of the body in an attempt to reduce the risks associated with hypertension. Prescription medication does NOT FIX HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE! The average person believes if medication keeps their blood pressure values within “normal ranges,” their problem has been resolved. It is important to realize the ROOT CAUSE of this hypertensive state remains unaddressed. The medication COMPETES with your body and over time often requires adjustments. This includes some combination of quantity and/or entirely different medications. In many cases multiple medications are prescribed to achieve the “desired medical results.” Common sense should question whether this approach BY ITSELF makes any sense. If the underlying causes of hypertension go unresolved, the potential for “hidden” (without symptoms) damage to occur is likely even though blood pressure values improve. The consumer must become aware that GOOD HEALTH is based on more than just numbers and lab values. How often have you heard stories about chronically sick debilitated people with normal blood pressures and lab values? Is our job as doctors to ignore the patient’s presentation if their lab values are normal? As we begin to view GOOD HEALTH in a more encompassing package including physical, mental and spiritual, we begin to recognize the weaknesses within the traditional paradigms and approaches to health care. “Controlled” blood pressure is NOT THE SAME AS NORMAL BLOOD PRESSURE.
3. According to the NIH (National Institute of Health,) “genetic factors only account for 2 to 3 percent of all cases.” Many consumers confuse the terms genetic and familial. Familial is a pattern found within a family structure, HOWEVER, environment becomes the dominant cause of these patterns. This means that individuals can avoid familial patterns by altering LIFESTYLE PATTERNS. Obesity is a classic example. A child with one obese parent has a 40% chance of becoming obese. A child with two obese parents has an 80% chance. These odds are not based on genetics, but rather environment and lifestyles.
4. In most cases in life, “things” DON’T JUST HAPPEN. Since most people in life follow destructive lifestyle patterns (often entirely unaware how damaging these lifestyles truly are) the results of these patterns eventually emerge over time. AGE is NOT the underlying cause of high blood pressure; lifestyle (in most cases) IS. There are certainly factors we can’t control such as pollution and genetics, but there are many factors we can control and need to begin assuming responsibility for them. Some of these include: (a) eating healthier diets (80%-90% of the time,) (b) exercising on a regular basis (at least 3-4 times/week), (c) drinking adequate amounts of water daily (64oz+ for the average person without health conditions requiring modifications to this amount,) (d) stress reduction, (e) proper restful sleep (6-9 hours/night) (f) social interaction (with family, friends, and community.)
5. High blood pressure is a common disorder that people go to the doctor with. This doesn’t mean this is the best course of action; it only means it is the most common. Am I suggesting the population should stop going to medical doctors for prescription blood pressure medications?
I’m suggesting each of us determine the value we place on our own personal lives and the effort we are willing to put forth to maximize the quality of our individual lives to:
PREVENT DEVELOPING HYPERTENSION!
PREVENT DEVELOPING HIGH CHOLESTEROL!
PREVENT DEVELOPING CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE!
PREVENT DEVELOPING DIABETES!
PREVENT DEVELOPING OBESITY!
PREVENT DEVELOPING CANCER!
Lifestyle is the biggest factor WE CAN CONTROL in preventing disease and enhancing the quality of our lives. With anti depressant medication the third most prevalent prescription written today, we must wake up to the fact that our current patterns in life are failing to promote the lifestyles we wish to live. Normally I profess that “change” is difficult, but the reality is our current approach to life is even more difficult for most people. There is a better path to follow, but it takes more than nodding your head in agreement. It requires a commitment to THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON ON THIS PLANET:
for it you don’t care enough to improve the path you follow, who else will?
Please, don’t just read this article and acknowledge its content with a head nod. Let it help guide you from your current path (if dissatisfied with your current path) onto a new healthier and happier path. I will gladly offer suggestions if you have any questions. Slowly, gaining back control over one’s life adds a quality of happiness and self confidence everyone is entitled to experience.