Non-Professional Advice on High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) [Archives:1998/43/Health]

October 26 1998

I have high blood pressure. Thousands of people in Yemen have high blood pressure or hypertension or AHT. Middle and old age people are mainly affected by AHT, but it grips youngsters as well. The symptoms of high blood pressure are pounding headaches, habitual sleeplessness, dizzyness and difficulty in breathing. Stress and strain, anxiety, emotions, sudden hazardous movement or mental action, climbing stairs swiftly, talking too much or reading loudly, gyrated exercises and un healthy living also increase blood pressure. 
We are taught at school that blood pressure is essential for the circulation of blood in the body. We were also told that the normal pressure of a person is 120/80. The upper figure known as systolic pressure between 120 and 130m of mercury is also normal whereas the bottom figure known as diastolic pressure between 75 and 85mm of mercury is likewise normal for a person. These figures may vary. For instance, I have had AHT for 15 years. My medical specialist says that the figure 140/90 at age 69 is quite normal for me. 
We hypertensives must try to keep our blood pressure under control. If not, there is a serious danger that we could suffer a stroke. Some of my close friends and relatives in Yemen who had high blood pressure sustained strokes. Many of them died as their attacks were quite severe, others were paralyzed rendering them powerless, mentally weak and crippled for the rest of their lives. 
There are hundreds of AHT patients who have mild hypertension and their diastolic pressure is between 90 and 105mm Hg. These patients should, I feel, try non-drug therapy, and use medicines according to instructions from medical specialists. Even when the condition of a patient is chronic and he or she is on medication, dieting, exercising and healthy living will greatly help in recovery. 
Let me confess that I quite often eat the wrong food, which is my main problem. My AHT has reached levels of 160/120 on many occasions due to an unhealthy diet. Another factor causing increase in my blood pressure is unhealthy living and improper medicines. However, with subsequent correct medication and correct feeding for weeks I have been able to control my AHT. We should continue medication even when the BP is normal. This advice is given by our medical specialists. It is quite likely that the AHT will rise if the maintenance dose is reduced or cut out altogether. We should consult our doctors on this subject. 
Let me now recapitulate some corrective principles which could greatly help those suffering from high blood pressure: 
1) Reduce (or best cut-out) all kinds of meat, fish, eggs and other high protein foods. I cut out meat products when I have diastolic pressure reading of 120mm, and I am on high medication. When the diastolic pressure return to 90mm, and I am on maintenance medicament I feel safe enough to go back to high protein, though moderately. 
2) Control emotions. I know that hard feelings or excitement or mental agitation and anxiety can cause high blood pressure leading to a stroke. Thus it is imperative that we control our emotions. 
3) Reduce or cut-out, if possible, all devitalized foods. I consume these items very moderately. They are tinned fruits, white bread, white sugar, halwas and jams, pastries and other items cooked at home with white sugar. We know that tinned fruits are hydrogenated with gas, fats and oils to harden them. These hydrogenated foods are not utilized by the body, and are harmful. White sugar is added to practically all our sweet dishes, and tea and coffee. Too much white sugar is harmful. I prefer items containing natural sugar, e.g. honey, fruits, dates, raisins and other naturally sweetened items. These preferred items do no harm to my teeth or stomach, and help control my blood pressure. During a visit to California, USA recently I was offered honey bags with tea and coffee by all restaurants I visited. 
4) Eat less. I try to keep my stomach 80% full only when eating main meals allowing the circulatory system to digest the food with ease. Of course, there are occasions when I am tempted and I do eat more especially when I am having fried chicken or fried fish with dal and rice or biryani or aseeda or saeeadiya. After eating any of these dishes I feel heaviness in the stomach. I also suffer from gastritis and acidity after these dishes. 
We need 3 to 4 ozs of high protein daily to replace dead tissues; why then take more protein and invite trouble. Our hearty meal gives harder work to the heart and circulatory system. We may be satisfied by a rich and nutritious meal which may fill our stomach 100%, but it can increase blood pressure. 
Let us also apply 80-20 formula for our daily food intake. I do. My food consists of 4/5th of vegetables, fruits, yogurt and salads. Only 1/5th of my food is starch and protein. I enjoy malookhia, ragna, carrots, cucumber, koosa and other vegetables plus fruits and other fresh raw salads. These form 80% of my food everyday. 
5) Physical exercise to improve health: I love walking and other exercises which don’t require weight lifting. Exercise is certainly good for AHT patients. We should walk at least a mile and if fit enough up to four miles a day to remain fit, and to help digestion of food, and to keep our blood pressure normal. We should, if possible, engage in complete and free movement of the entire body while walking. 
6) Avoid salt. I avoid sprinkling salt on my food which is cooked with very little or no salt. I have read that salt attracts water, and causes the retention of fluid in the body. Salt also does not allow calcium in the food to be used properly. 
7) Measure our own blood pressure. I possess a sphygmomanometer-blood pressure measuring instrument – plus a stethoscope. I measure my own blood pressure regularly. Its operation is quite simple, and any doctor or nurse can teach you. It makes me aware as to how my medicines, diet and exercise are affecting my blood pressure. 
In conclusion let me say that we should develop the art of relaxing, and slow down the tempo of our life. Hypertension takes a long time to develop, and it can therefore take a long time to withdraw. In the meantime we should follow the instructions of our doctors. If the BP increases notwithstanding medication it is due to our own negligence. and wrong living. 
Good luck and good living. 
By: Yusuf Abdul Hamid, Aden.