High blood pressure or hypertension is a long-term condition in which the blood pressure within the arteries is persistently elevated. Blood pressure is expressed by two measurements, the systolic and diastolic measurements represented by the top number and bottom number received when measuring blood pressure, respectively.
These numbers are measured according to the actions of the heart. Systolic blood pressure is the measurement created as the heart contracts during each heartbeat. Diastolic blood pressure is the measurement of blood pressure as the heart relaxes. The optimal blood pressure currently accepted is to have a blood pressure in the range of 120/80.
Also read: Measuring systolic and diastolic blood pressure
What does diastolic hypertension mean?
Having high diastolic blood pressure is a sign that your blood vessels have become less elastic, hardened, and scarred. Blood pressure is not a static reading as it tends to fluctuate throughout the day with the normal rate of diastolic blood pressure ranging between 60 to 80 mmHg.
Having flexible blood vessels allows your body to appropriately manage oscillations in blood pressure. However, when your blood vessels are rigid, the chances of vessel rupture or obstruction is more likely to occur.
Diastolic hypertension vs. systolic hypertension
For decades, it was assumed that diastolic hypertension, an increase in the bottom number of blood pressure readings, was a more concerning finding than systolic hypertension. However, this thinking has now changed, as systolic blood pressure has been found to play a more significant role in the development of various blood pressure complications such as stroke and left ventricular hypertrophy.
A recent study assessing cardiovascular risk in treated hypertensive men found that the control of systolic blood pressure was more important for overall survival, with diastolic blood pressure having little value for predicting future cardiovascular risk.
Also read: What causes systolic hypertension?
Causes and risk factors for diastolic hypertension
There are several causes of high diastolic blood pressure, with a diastolic reading of greater than 90mmHg and above considered high. The following are some of the most common high diastolic blood pressure causes.
This type refers to a state of high blood pressure that is not attributed to a known disease cause, such as stiff or hardened blood vessels. It is believed that primary hypertension manifests due to a combination of genes and environmental factors, with many common genetic variants being responsible for its development having been identified. Having isolated diastolic hypertension is primarily seen in young adults and is not seen to be attributed to any particular cause, but may be due to endocrine hormone imbalances or inappropriate contraction of tiny blood vessel wall muscles.
Endocrine and kidney causes
The endocrine system is composed of a collection of glands that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system. These hormones are able to target distant organs, helping to regulate physiology and behavior. The thyroid gland is one of these endocrine structures and it can produce abnormal levels of hormones that lead to elevations of diastolic blood pressure. Problems with the kidney, such as renal failure, are also a common reason for blood pressure increases.
Obstructive sleep apnea
A condition characterized by repeated episodes of breathing cessation during a single night. It is believed that because most sleep apnea patients are obese, this also translates to increased blood pressure, but some studies have shown that high blood pressure in these patients can occur regardless of obesity.
Carrying extra fat on the body acts as a surface area on the body that your heart has to pump blood extra hard for it to fully reach it. leading to increases in blood pressure. Additionally, extra fat in the form of cholesterol can become deposited along the walls of the arteries causing them to become narrower.
Consuming foods high in fat and salt can lead to increases in blood pressure and even damage blood vessels.
Smoking and alcohol
The nicotine found in cigarette smoke is known to be able to constrict blood vessels, increasing heart rate, and decreasing the levels of oxygen to the heart. The consumption of alcohol can indirectly lead to high blood pressure as they are often high in calories which can lead to weight gain.
Not exercising the body on a regular basis can lead to a number of illnesses related to weight gain and increased cholesterol levels.
Age and gender
Getting older is considered one of the most common contributing factors for the development of high blood pressure for both men and women. However, men over the age of 45 are considered to have a high risk of developing high blood pressure related problems. Women in comparison average about 55 years old before they begin to have health-related issues related to high blood pressure.
Race and ethnicity
African Americans are considered to have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure compared to Caucasians and other ethnicities. It is estimated that about 40 percent of African American men and women have high blood pressure.
Complications of high diastolic blood pressure
While much emphasis is placed on reducing systolic blood pressure values, elevations in diastolic blood pressure is still a significant predictor of life-threatening consequences. A previous study evaluating the medical records of over a million people reported that while elevations in systolic blood pressure were indeed linked to a higher risk of heart disease-related chest pain as well as strokes, high diastolic blood pressure was liked to a great risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm, a condition where the main artery found the abdominal cavity leaks or bursts creating a life threating situation. Additionally, other studies found that a link between increases in diastolic blood pressure and cognitive decline.
Isolated diastolic hypertension can possibly lead to possible progression of systolic hypertension, of which is a predictor of diabetes, stroke, and heart failure.
What are the symptoms of high diastolic blood pressure?
High blood pressure is generally considered a silent disease as it is notorious for not producing many, if any, appreciable symptoms. This is the reason why most medical professionals consider having high blood pressure an asymptomatic disease, having no symptoms.
However, secondary causes of high blood pressure (attributed to an underlying condition) may present with additional presentable symptoms in addition to increases in blood pressure. Hypothyroidism, for example, is characterized by an underactive thyroid gland leading to a decrease in the production of thyroid hormone, and can present with weight gain, intolerance to cold, and feelings of tiredness, in addition to elevations in diastolic blood pressure.
Primary hypertension cases do not have any presenting symptom but instead can lead to long-term health consequences if not treated early in the course of the disease. This is why taking blood pressure measurement on a regular basis is vitally important, as it is the only reliable method for identifying the condition.
It is also important to mention to having blood pressure reach very dangerous levels (>180/>120) can lead to the presentation of symptoms that should prompt immediate medical intervention. These symptoms include:
- Night sweats and increased sweating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nose bleeding
- Heart palpitations
- Blurred vision
Treatment for diastolic hypertension
For the most part, treating high diastolic blood pressure will follow similar treatment methods used for treating high systolic blood pressure. These methods include:
- Quit smoking
- Eat a healthy diet consisting of fresh vegetables, fruits, and foods low in fat and salt content
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
- Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers
- Beta Blockers
- Calcium Channel Blockers
- Renin Inhibitors
Diet for high diastolic blood pressure
A high diastolic blood pressure treatment in natural terms means adhering to a heart-healthy diet. The following list covers off some of the healthy diet suggestions for treating diastolic hypertension.
Healthy whole foods
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and low-fat dairy, as well as foods that are high in potassium naturally can help boost your heart health and lower diastolic blood pressure. Cutting back on foods that are processed and are high in sugar and fat is highly recommended.
Consuming too much sodium leads to water retention and forces the heart and arteries to work hard to pump blood. You should not consume more than 1,500 mg of sodium each day. Also, sea salt can contain man-made additives that are bad for your health. To put things in perspective, just one teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. Research suggests that the average person has 3,400 mg of sodium daily, more than twice the recommended amount.
While moderate alcohol consumption may improve health, having more than one or two alcoholic beverages per day can increase blood pressure and cause other adverse health effects.
It is believed that caffeine blocks the hormone that is responsible for keeping our arteries open, so reducing caffeine consumption makes sense. Coffee, energy drinks, and sodas have caffeine in them, but you can switch to natural teas that are caffeine free.
Less red meat
Consuming red meats on a regular basis can increase diastolic blood pressure and increase the risk of developing heart disease. The high-fat content in red meat raises cholesterol and blood pressure. You can switch to eating chicken, turkey, and fish.
Increase omega-3 fatty acids
Foods that have omega-3 fatty acids can improve heart health and lower blood pressure to reduce the risk of heart disease. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, tilapia, and walnuts are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Research suggests that one fresh papaya on an empty stomach each day for a month can lower diastolic pressure. If you plan to try this, don’t eat anything after you consume the papaya for at least two hours.
Taking two teaspoons of half onion juice and half honey each day for one to two weeks may lower your diastolic blood pressure naturally.
This juicy fruit contains an organic compound called citrulline that, once consumed, converts to an amino acid that leads to the production of nitric oxide. This nitric oxide helps widen blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure. Eating fresh watermelon first thing in the morning is best.
Drinking an eight- to twelve-ounce glass of ionized water each day has been known to lower diastolic blood pressure in some individuals.
Garlic and garlic milk
Considered one of the most effective natural remedies for diastolic hypertension. It is good for thrombosis, hardening of the arteries, and high blood cholesterol. Using fresh garlic is best. You can also make garlic milk by heating half a liter of water and milk and boil 10 garlic cloves in it. When it cools off, you can add some honey to it before drinking.
Add one teaspoon of cayenne pepper to a half of a cup of lukewarm water and drink it.
Lemon and honey water
This has been used as a medicinal remedy for years when it comes to the common cold, but it can also be consumed for blood pressure. Squeeze half a lemon in about 100 grams of water and then add one teaspoon of raw honey. Drink it every two hours.
You can take one teaspoonful of fenugreek seeds both morning and evening with an empty stomach for 10–15 days with water. If fenugreek seeds sound familiar, that is because they are a common ingredient in dishes from South Asia.
The water from coconut contains potassium and magnesium, which can regulate muscle function, including the heart. Studies on hypertension and coconut water are ongoing; however, anecdotally, there are people who report it helps lower their blood pressure.
Lifestyle changes to lower diastolic hypertension
Lowering high diastolic blood pressure in a more natural way isn’t just about what you eat and drink. The following list includes other lifestyle changes you can adopt if you want to avoid high blood pressure.
Physical activity can strengthen the heart muscles, improve blood flow, and allow the heart to pump with less effort. Walking, running, cycling, dancing, or swimming are activities that you can add to your daily routine. Exercising for at least 30 minutes each day of the week is recommended. Keep in mind that the type of exercise does usually dictate how much time you will need. Also, you should check with a doctor before going ahead with an exercise routine.
Lose excess weight
People with thick waistlines and a high body mass index (BMI) often have high diastolic blood pressure readings. This is because their hearts have to work harder to pump blood through the entire body. Exercising and eating healthy can help a person shed those pounds. As a general rule, a male should have a waist measurement less than 40 inches and a female’s waist should be less than 35.
Cigarettes contain nicotine and nicotine narrows arteries, hardens artery walls, as well as increases your risk of blood clots, heart disease, and stroke. If you are a smoker, stop smoking as soon as possible. Discuss effective smoking cessation methods with your doctors. It can be hard to quit but not impossible.
Reduce and manage stress
The body releases chemicals and hormones that can narrow the blood vessels temporarily when we are under stress. Stress also gets our heart beating faster. Long-term stress is thought to increase the risk of getting heart problems, such as stroke and heart attacks. Taking time to relax and practice stress-reducing exercises can be very helpful.
Regardless of your weight or size, you should check your cholesterol on a regular basis. High cholesterol can increase blood pressure. Some people make a point to get screened each time they visit their doctor. This is a good idea, especially if you are over the age of 40.
If you experience blurred vision, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or weakness, these could be signs of a blood pressure problem. It is very important to know that in the majority of cases, people with high blood pressure do not have symptoms, which is why it has been referred to as “the silent killer.” People usually don’t know they have high blood pressure until it is measured. This is why taking your blood pressure is a common practice at just about any physician visit.
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