Health Behaviours and Heart Failures (7th of 12 posts)

Posted by Heart Niagara on

Health Behaviours Impact on Heart Disease Risk Factors: Hypertension

Hypertension is high blood pressure and like diabetes it is a complex disease because it has a very complicated development period, a complicated and poorly understood disease period which leads to an even more complicated disease impact period.

There are different types of hypertension and each one affects your heart and other organs differently but kind of the same and it’s all bad. Most of the time hypertension is slow and insidious to develop and you don’t even know you have it. It is one of the most underdiagnosed chronic diseases because we don’t feel it and we don’t know to look for health care help. Hypertension is often found by accident when you are getting a check up for something else. If your blood pressure (BP) is a little high at the clinic you will get the “lifestyle” talk, e.g., be more physically active, eat less salt, lose some weight, quit smoking, limit alcohol use and come see me again in 3 to 6 months for another check. This “lifestyle” talk is all about your health behaviours but not likely said in those terms. Remember, poor health behaviours (and genetics) are the foundation for all of the heart disease risk factors including hypertension. Anyway, that 3 to 6 month appointment is often never made or missed and your BP isn’t looked at again until you get another check up for something else and your BP is checked. Now it is probably higher and you are probably offered some antihypertensive medication which you don’t want and swear you will work hard at the “lifestyle” improvements for another 3 to 6 months. Your health care provider may or may not let you get away with this but will likely sit you down and have a heart to heart talk about BP management. At this point you definitely have a diagnosis of hypertension and will be checked for organ damage, i.e., enlarged heart and it’s rhythm, kidney function, vision and retinal damage, and others. Hypertension is a diagnosis that goes on your health record and never comes off, it’s a chronic disease that you have to manage for the rest of your life.

A reminder, healthy behaviours are:

  1. Be physically active
  2. Don’t overeat
  3. Eat good quality food (Mediterranean diet)
  4. Don’t have any smoke exposure

Hypertension is still not well understood and is generally preventable with life long good health behaviours. Sadly though some people do most of the good health behaviours and still get high BP. A persons DNA/genetics can help or harm them and hypertension is no exception. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Many chronic diseases especially those that put you at risk for heart disease have the same health behaviour / genetic patterns.

To summarize, the development of high BP involves overeating, eating poor quality food, being over-weight, not getting enough exercise and genetics that allow your BP to get high.

But it’s ok, high BP is almost always manageable if you try, meaning, look after your health behaviours, take your medications, do home BP monitoring and get check ups when you should.