High blood pressure is often thought of as an ailment of age – something that we can ‘pop a pill’ for when we get to that point in our lives we need a little outside help to stay healthy. But with one in three Aussies now affected by the silent killer, it’s a condition we can no longer afford not to scream and shout about.
Like the much-discussed (and rightly so) Type 2 Diabetes, the prevalence of hypertension (high blood pressure) is increasing at staggering rates across all age groups and ethnicities, including children. But for some reason, despite the medical profession agreeing its one of the biggest epidemics facing the health of Australia, it doesn’t seem to get as much of a guernsey in the media or seem to be as hot on the lips of health and wellness enthusiasts. Why is that?
Reasons why high blood pressure gets ignored
- It’s harder to accept or acknowledge if you don’t have any symptoms. If someone has a cough and a fever they’re more likely to believe they have pneumonia. High blood pressure may not seem much of a concern if you feel fine.
- It’s not something that’s really a concern until you’re older. This may have been the case for previous generations, but high blood pressure is increasing across all age groups including children. One in 12 Australians under 30 (311,000 people) have high blood pressure and mostly, it’s for the same reasons that older people do: moving too little, eating too mcuh or too much of the wrong foods, and being overweight or obese.
- It’s not that serious, and can be fixed with a pill. People diagnosed with high blood pressure are quickly prescribed medication by their GP. But this is usually after they’ve been warned of the serious risks of heart disease and stroke of not treating/managing it. But often, once a pill is prescribed that will take care of the problem, people are less likely to make the lifestyle changes needed to resolve or prevent the problem.
- It’s not easy to understand how you got it. People are often baffled why they have high blood pressure or are quick to put it down to genetics. While there may be a higher risk with a family history, there are many contributors to high blood pressure including being overweight, lack of exercise, alcohol consumption, stress AND diet – which is not widely understood, in particular, which foods are mostly responsible.
The other white additive we should all be talking about
The causes for high blood pressure are not too unlike Type 2 diabetes. But what is more understood about this type of diabetes, thanks to social and traditional media attention, is the significant impact a little white additive – known as SUGAR – has on the condition. But there’s also a little white additive that wreaks havoc on high blood pressure too – SALT.
If high blood pressure is as fast growing and life threatening, then we also need to be talking about salt – its serious health impacts and its prevalence in our food supply.
Excess salt in the blood increases the pressure in our blood vessels and forces our hearts to work harder. Any increase in blood pressure can damage vessels and increase the risk of heart disease
Australians are consuming almost double the maximum daily salt intake and like sugar, a lot of the salt we are eating is coming from processed foods. We need to be also reading the label for sodium (salt). We’re not suggesting that we watch for salt to the exclusion of sugar, fats and other ingredients/additives, but that we consider the impact our food choices has on our health as a whole.
Minimising processed foods and cooking fresh helps to ensure we are not getting more of these foods than we should have each day. Here are some great family recipes that are low in salt, sugar and fats that will are both tasty and nourishing.
Keeping your eye on high blood pressure
Watching your diet and getting regular check-ups from your doctor is the best way to keep your blood pressure in check. As there are no symptoms for high blood pressure, the only way to know for sure is to get it checked by your doctor. Not only that, it’s important to note what the doctor says. (Get a better understanding of blood pressure readings here). You may be pre-hypertensive (it might be high but high enough to warrant medication). In which case, it’s the perfect time to make changes before it becomes more serious.