In order to beat high blood pressure, you have to know exactly the mechanics of it, what it involves, which factors contribute, because the development of high blood pressure has many simultaneous roots, causes and mechanisms!!! Believe me, these are far more than overweight, lack of exercise or stress. “Know thy enemy” or “Know thyself” are essential ingredients to successfully reduce this disorder.
So, let us get started:
A little excourse into mechanics
Imagine it was summer and we had to water our plants and flowers in the garden.
Let’s say that after watering your plants you turned the front part of the hosepipe off, but you forgot to close the standpipe. What do you think will happen? Let’s assume again, that instead of turning the front part off, some sand and rocks are clogging the passage. What do you think will happen if the water keeps running and running?
– Correct, the water pressure rises.
Now, what will happen, if the rubber of the hosepipe is not elastic and thus can not expand according to the pressure? –
You guessed right, the pressure would rise even further.
Finally, what will happen, if the rubber is not solid anymore, but contains cracks and residues from calcium and other materials? –
Chances are, that the pipe will burst.
In a nutshell, this is exactly what will happen when the pressure in your arteries is too high.
Back to human beings
Now, we are human beings, and the matter is way more complicated. As you might have guessed, the pipe parallels the function of our arteries. The main “pipes” in our body carry nutrients and oxygen via the healthiest juice on Earth, i.e. blood, to our 700 billion cells on a total distance of 40.000 km.
What do these pressure values mean?
Our arteries need a certain pressure,which is about 80 mmHG (millimeters of mercury)when resting, in order to get oxygen and nutrients to where they are required – in our toes as much as in our brain cells. Now this is the lower value which you know as the diastolic pressure. Otherwise our arteries would just hang lazily around like noodles. Like a hosepipe needs some constant internal pressure to make the water flow.
Our greatest device besides our brain, which is our heart, makes sure, that enough nutrients and oxygen is provided throughout our body – even against the force of gravity, isn’t this amazing? Simplistically speaking, it works like a pump, first collecting our healthiest juice, the blood, then thrusting it out into our pipe system by contracting its muscle, thereby squeezing our blood out. The pressure the heart muscle exerts at the point of contraction is the higher value, called systolic pressure, which is statistically benchmarked at around 120 mmHG.
Is our blood pressure always the same?
Depending on what we do, whether we are sleeping, running, kissing, doing streneous workout, having to react to a change in traffic light, or to escape from a gorilla chasing us, our muscles and cells require more or less oxygen and nutrients.
Luckily, our heart has a few friends. Thus, it does not have to decide all by itself what to do. One of them is our smart brain (we will talk about the others another time), which receives information from our nervous sytem and informs our heart, what to do accordingly, whether more or less nutrients and oxygen are required. Whenever we touch a hot stove, for instance, our nervous system registers alarm, transmitts this message immediately to the heart, and the heart increases its nutrient and blood supply to make sure, we are able to contract our arm muscles as quickly as possible to withdraw our hand! The blood pressure had to rise significantly to make this happen! Smart, isn’t it? When the situation is over, the muscle of the heart starts to relax, and the pressure decreases again.
When we have to climb a staircase, also here our oxygen requirements for our legs increases, hence our blood pressure rises. When no longer needed and the exercise is over, the blood pressure goes down again.
In a nutshell, the systolic pressure, the maximum pressure of contraction, always fluctuates depending on our activities and perceptions.
It is interesting to note here, that also images of alarming situations on TV for example (9/11) also cause a rise in the upper pressure (based on scientific research).
The lower pressure, however, remains basically naturally the same, as it is the basic pressure necessary to maintain a constant movement of blood, controlled by the filter of our body, i.e. our kidneys.
What is so bad about high blood pressure then?
As you could see, fluctuations in bood pressure and occasional high pressure is something quite natural and the body’s beautiful way of adjusting to our different circumstances in our lifes.
However, the problem arises when the high pressure (the upper maximum pressure) of the heart persists for an extended time and the heart has no chance to relax. Our pipes, the arteries, can only take a certain pressure before they become subject to damage like our hosepipe in the beginning. First, some unnoticed minor cracks will appear, then eventually somewhere along the pipe some residues will stick to this crack. More and more particles keep accumulating, gradually reducing the water passage. In our body system this means a gradual narrowing of our arteries. Yet, our heart knows that we still need the same supply of oxygen and nutrients to perform. As a smart thinker, it has only one option to maintain a proper circulation. This is to raise the pressure to make sure the blood passes through the narrow passages.
Although this is a strategy for survival for us, it has several unfortunate side effects
1) The increased pressure damages even more arteries, particularly small capillary tubes. Again, the pressure has to rise further to overcome additional hinderances. Thus, a vicious circle starts. Pressure – damage – higher pressure – more damage and so on!The problem – you have no idea about it and continue living as if nothing happened!
2) The increased pressure might carry some residues, or clogging material such as fat or blood with it. These might clog the artery at one point completely, and the area behind it is not getting vitally needed oxygen. These parts simply die. This might effect vital areas of our brain, heart, or kidneys. A stroke or a cardiac arrest are the feared outcomes.
3) The arteries and capillary tubes might at one point not be able to stand the pressure anymore and burst. Think of a balloon which you keep on filling with water, and water, and water, until eventually the walls would not be able to stand the pressure. This usually happens, when the “pipes” or the arteries are very hard and very thin.
4) If this pressure continues to persist, the muscle of the heart has to do extra work, every year a little bit more to make sure the same oxygen supply is maintained. Now, you might think, well, this must be good. If I train my biceps longer and harder, it grows and becomes stronger. Yes, but it also becomes harder, less elastic, and thicker. So will the walls of our heart become thicker and harder. The outcome is that it is only able to pump at a high pressure and not able to relax anymore as it could before.
5) At one point the heart is simply worn out, though it is a powerful beautiful creation, which has not been paralled by any human built machine. Every car gets more attention, treatment, and grooming than our heart does, though the heart’s capacity is by comparison far more stunning than the engine of the best Ferrari. Eventually, after a prolongued heart marathon, it just gives way and we encounter a malfunction of our heart.
Now you probably understand, why it is so important to find your reasons for developing high blood pressure and why it is not enough to just artificially hold it down.
However, the focus here is on a pressure which lasts for an extended period of time. Only when you measure (which you should always do) your blood pressure three days in a row at the same time while resting with a value of 140 (higher value) and above and 90 and above (lower value), then you do have a chronic condition of your circulatory system, called hypertension or high blood pressure.
High blood pressure which is measured only once with no further examinations after you ran up a staircase to see your doc or you are late for another appointment is rarely an indication of a chronic condition known as hypertension.
Of course, there are more factors to it, which you will see as you read along! Once you know them, you will also understand how you can tackle the problem!
Love your heart!