Is it possible to prevent HTN
This is the billion-dollar question, no seriously, Billions each year is spent on high blood pressure management, medications, or the complications associated with high blood pressure.
Before I answer this question, allow me to dance for a little bit.
When it comes to risk factors for having hypertension, they are broken down into two categories: modifiable risk factors and non-modifiable risk factors.
Modifiable risk factor means that there are certain habits you may have in life that may play a large part in you having high blood pressure. The reason these are modifiable is that the power resides in you to improve these conditions. In other words, if you improve or eliminate these risk factors, the chances of having high blood pressure decrease dramatically.
These risk factors are:
Lack of physical activity- People who are not active are more likely to be vulnerable to many diseases. Physical activity provides a great form of exercise for your heart and circulatory system.
An unhealthy diet- More specifically, I am referring to the SAD (standard American diet). Wherever this diet goes, the disease is sure to show. This diet is high in processed foods and low in vital healing and rejuvenating nutrients. That makes the SAD the perfect storm for high pressure and almost every other preventable disease.
Excess weight or obesity- More specifically, I am referring to body fat. Excess body fat puts an additional strain on your already hard-working circulatory system and can cause multiple health conditions.
Drinking too much alcohol- Regular, heavy use of alcohol can cause many health problems, including heart failure, stroke, and an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). It can cause your blood pressure to increase dramatically and can also increase your risk of cancer, obesity, alcoholism, suicide, and accidents.
Smoking and tobacco use- Using tobacco can cause your blood pressure to increase temporarily. Although this increase is temporary, multiply that by multiple times a day, several times a week, for years. This constant influx of blood pressure, along with the ingredients found in cigarettes, can contribute to damaged arteries. This goes for second-hand smoke as well.
Stress- Stress is not always a bad thing. Eustress is a type of stress that is beneficial to the individual. This would be things like resistance training. Whereas Distress is not so beneficial and can lead to anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues. During these stressful moments, the body releases hormones to help adapt to the stressor and activate our fight or flight response. But once again, this is intended to be temporary. So, things like hating your job, gossip, ratchetness in your Facebook feed, feeling oppressed and hopeless, a strong dislike for those in your life, not being able to pay your light bill, hearing gunshots go off at night as a lullaby and hating where you live, can all cause a constant secretion of hormones that will contribute to increased blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and a shorter lifespan. PS, I forgot to say FACTS!
Non-modifiable risk factors mean that this is something that is out of your control, and there is nothing you can do about it. When talking about hypertension, these non-modifiable risk factors would be things like:
- Family history
- Race/ Genetics
I specifically want to focus on the last two bullet points, Family history and race. We always hear that African Americans are more likely to have hypertension and heart disease. The general, vague, and misleading reason given is because it runs in your family, and it's in your genes.
Being told this, followed by the individual believing this, actually traps them in this mental framework created by the person giving them this information along with the individual themselves. This is a framework of the reality of eventually being sick, and there is nothing that can be done about it. It's a box of hopelessness and giving up. After all, since it's in your genes, you will eventually have high blood pressure.
The only problem with this mental framework and false reality is that it doesn't exist. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE SICK!
You are not destined to be sick. You are not destined to suffer ailment after ailment without any power and control.
Always focus intensely on the things within your control in life; everything else will only serve as a stressor or lead to stagnation.
In the case of high blood pressure, we definitely want to focus on the things within our control, which would be the modifiable risk factors and not the non-modifiable risk factors.
Why focus on modifiable vs. non-modifiable? For two reasons:
- non-modifiable risk factors such as family history and genetics are not a risk at all. The risk here is an evolutionary mismatch, which will not be expanded on right now, as it will take us off course. The risk is eating the SAD (standard American diet). Genetically, you are not about that life. When it comes to the SAD, really no one is about that life, but other races may tolerate the SAD better, for whatever value that has.
- It has been shown in multiple studies, (1, 2, 3) that modifiable risk factors account for an average of 90-95% when it comes to the prevention of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and other preventable diseases.
This means that, even if the racial and genetic component was correct, you are still 90-95% control of your health destiny. Now, you can sit there and focus on that other 5-10% if you want, but this is not what I'm here for.
I am here to educate and empower. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE SICK