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Hypertension is a disease of modern society and it is believed that nearly 30 percent of North Americans have this condition. In my opinion, I believe this is a low estimation. Hypertension is any state where blood pressure levels are above the magic threshold of 140/90 mmHg. We encourage our patients to aim for levels closer to ideally 120/80 but any below 140/90 is ideal. 

Hypertension is caused by a number of factors. Genetics can play a significant role and if you have parents that suffered from hypertension, you are more likely to have this disease. As you all can imagine, diet also plays a large factor in why we have hypertension. Fried foods, lack of exercise and an infatuation with fatty foods makes North America the perfect storm of factors that lead to hypertension. 

Genetics and poor diets can account for nearly 90 percent of hypertensive cases in North America. The last 10 percent is where this chat group comes in handy. 

Stress, anxiety, and happiness can all be factors that alter blood pressures through somatic mechanisms. Just think about the last time you got extremely angry about something and the pounding headache that soon followed. This unfortunate headache is a physiological response of our brain-saving us from an ischemic event like a stroke or a heart attack. When we get angry, anxious or stressed, our body naturally releases cortisol and adrenaline that can indirectly lead to blood pressure getting higher. Our brains are the most sensitive areas in our bodies and need to have minor changes in blood pressure at all times. If we are too stressed or angry, our brains kick into action and constrict our blood vessels in the brain to make sure they do not rupture. A minor headache is a small price to pay for this life-saving adaptation. 

To put these changes into some type of scientific perspective, if you are still not convinced, 1152 patients with borderline hypertension were followed to determine if their moods were directly linked to their blood pressures. At the time of the study, over half the patients self-reported they were feeling happy, 67 felt angry and 452 felt anxious. It was determined that beyond any possible doubt, moods significantly impacted what blood pressures were recorded. Patients in a distressed state were found to have significantly higher blood pressures while patients in a happy state were trending lower when it comes to their recordings. [1]

The most important thing that you can do when you are recording your blood pressure is to make sure you are as relaxed as possible. It is natural for patients to be anxious about these numbers but you must realize is that blood pressures fluctuate throughout the day. Levels are generally lower in the morning (right after waking up) because we are relaxed and in a calm state (hopefully). As the day progresses, stresses and daily life naturally make our blood pressures climb. 

Even though hypertension is termed "the silent killer," this is a physiological process that takes years to get to and years to recover from. When you obsess too much about a specific number, you often add extra worrying to this equation and when muscles tense, they naturally constrict the vessels and lead to higher blood pressures. 

You can try to fight this stress disorder by meeting with a psychologist in order to find the root of this stress. "Psychologists" should not be a taboo term and utilizing their expertise does not make you a "crazy person." They can help you cope with these issues that could stem from a relative suffering from sickness due to hypertension or the heart attack that could occur if you are not treating it. Once you understand why you are so nervous about blood pressures, you will no longer have the same physiological response. 

The most effective way to manage your hypertension is just to lose weight. Pills, diets low in salt and alternative therapies may lower blood pressure values but they are limited in their effectiveness. If patients lose as little as 10 kilograms, their blood pressure values can reduce by as much as 25/10 mmHg. Adopt a regular exercise routine like swimming, slowly lose the weight and then lose your high blood pressure. It's that simple. 

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