Just because you’ve heard the same hypertension opinion or recommendation multiple times doesn’t mean it’s true. Rumors and misconceptions gain credence as common knowledge through misguided word of mouth. But believing falsehoods can have adverse effects on your health. Luckily, recent studies have set the record straight.
Are Blood Pressure Checks in One Arm Accurate?
Although traditional blood pressure checks involve just one arm, a new study found that differences between both arms raised subjects’ future cardiovascular event risks significantly. The report published in The American Journal of Medicine examined 3390 Framingham Heart Study participants aged 40 years and older who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline.
Readings measure the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats (systolic) and between beats (diastolic). Investigators found that people with broader interarm systolic blood pressure variations were much more likely to experience heart attacks and strokes than those whose differences were less than 10 millimeters of mercury.Substantial inconsistencies occurred in almost 10 percent of subjects. Common characteristics of this at-risk group included older age, greater prevalence of higher systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol levels along with diabetes mellitus.
Lead investigator Ido Weinberg, M.D., of the Institute for Heart Vascular and Stroke Care, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, concluded that taking blood pressure in both arms provides the most accurate readings possible. He advised doctors and patients to detect and address even modest differences in interarm blood pressure to prevent further complications.
Can Salt Restriction Control Hypertension?
Most people think just reducing their table salt will lower their blood pressure. But studies show that only 12-15 percent of dietary sodium comes from salt you add at mealtime. Also, salt doesn’t affect everyone the same. Some people aren’t sensitive to sodium. Limiting salt intake may even increase others’ blood pressure. People with chronic low blood pressure must consume enough salt in their diets to help their kidneys maintain normal readings.
Some people respond very well to sodium restriction while others benefit very little. Cultural history may explain this odd disparity. Some European populations preserved food with salt since ancient times, so their descendents seem acclimated to high intakes. Yet African-Americans’ genetic susceptibility to salt may persist because traditional African cultures traded gold for salt until the late 19th century.
Modern doctors tend to believe that a lifetime of chronic exposure to excess sodium in the diet may shift your metabolism toward higher blood pressure. If high salt levels set permanent hormonal changes in motion or damage your kidney function, eliminating salt can’t reverse the trend to normalize your blood pressure. But your doctor can prescribe other effective treatments.
Does Insomnia Affect High Blood Pressure?
Unlike previous small studies that suggested a link between insomnia and high blood pressure, a new examination of data from nearly 13,000 Americans found no association. That’s good news for the 30 percent of adults who suffer from difficulty falling asleep, waking up for prolonged periods during the night and/or early morning awakening.
Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, a respirologist at Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s St. Michael’s Hospital, analyzed data from theNational Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This series of studies that assessed Americans’ health and nutritional statuses is unique for combining interviews and physical examinations. Researchers correlated participant-reported insomnia symptoms with doctor-diagnosed hypertension, measured high blood pressure, blood pressure medication and sleeping pills.
The findings published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry noted that the investigators found no associations between insomnia and increased high blood pressure risk after adjusting for many factors. Vozoris reported that even people who suffered from this very common sleep disorder most often could quit worrying about insomnia affecting their hearts adversely.
Is Hypertension a Man’s Disease?
One in three American adults has high blood pressure. Recent data shows that it afflicts men more frequently than women until age 55. Then this so-called man’s disease raises a woman’s risk more sharply. Hypertension continues to be one of the leading causes of heart disease in the U.S. While heart disease remains the number one killer of both genders, current data shows that a male’s risk of dying from it has declined over the past few decades. Females aren’t so lucky.
According to the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, about 70 percent of women in their 60s and 70s have high blood pressure. After 75, this symptomless disease affects nearly 80 percent of elderly women. Addressing this concern with your doctor is vital to avoid hypertension’s life-threatening complications and premature death.
Managing Your Blood Pressure
Your heart is a pump that pushes blood through your arteries. During physical activity and stress, your blood pressure increases naturally. But long-term elevation can strain your blood vessels and heart. The added force of blood surging through your arteries damages your artery walls. It also encourages cholesterol-filled plaque, which can lead to angina, heart attacks and strokes. Untreated high blood pressure also can cause peripheral artery disease, kidney damage and vision loss.
Age, diet, smoking and physical inactivity contribute to primary hypertension. Less common secondary hypertension occurs with kidney disease and other endocrine disorders. A combination of prescription medications like Olmesartan or Olmesartan HCTZ and lifestyle modifications can treat both.Aging men who practice healthy habits can help keep their chances of heart disease on the decline. Older women who fight this silent killer can lower their risks of becoming unfortunate statistics.