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High blood pressure, stroke and heart disease

During times of stress, whether it is mental or physical the body reacts in the same way. The stress hormones are released and circulated throughout the body and brain. One of the many impacts of the surge in stress hormones in an increase in heart rate.

Stress is part of everyday life. Continuous stress eventually leads to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis which is a leading cause of stroke and heart disease.

Scientific research has found that emotions can also impact an individual's risk of developing heart problems. A Swedish study found that elderly men with high blood pressure who became frustrated and angry during a mental stress test were three times more likely to suffer from a stroke compared to those with lower blood pressure and those participants who were better able to control their frustration and stress.

Blood pressure is measured using two values; the systolic and diastolic reading. Systolic records the pressure as the heart beats and the diastolic records the pressure between beats.

According to the Blood Pressure Association, blood pressure should ideally be less than 120 systolic over 80 diastolic as at this level people are less likely to suffer from heart disease or a stroke. However, it is reported that on average adults in the United Kingdom have between 120/80 and 140/90. The Blood Pressure Association recomend that if blood pressure is above 140/90 (regarded as high blood pressure or hypertension), where ever possible steps should be taken to reduce blood pressure.

Hypertension can not only increase the risk factor of suffering from a heart attack or coronary failure, but can also have many other health implications.

The brain, for example, is affected by high blood pressure. Prolonged and untreated high blood pressure can be a major cause of stroke and has also been highlighted as a potential risk factor for some kinds of dementia.

Throughout the rest of the body, hypertension has also been linked to an increased chance of being diagnosed with kidney disease. Additionally, high blood pressure can cause difficulties with limbs, potentially causing peripheral arterial disease which affects legs.

How to reduce blood pressure

There are five main health recomendations to reduce blood pressure. If blood pressure is reduced to around 120 over 80, the risk of stroke and cardiovascular problems are also significantly decreased.

Keep stress levels to a minimum by adopting stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation. Additionally light daily exercise such as Qi kung, Tai Chi and yoga can aid relaxation and wellbeing.

Salt intake should be kept as low as possible. It has been reported that some patients with high blood pressure could avoid being put onto hypertension medication simply by removing salt from their diets. Salt isn't just something that is added to meals. Often, is can be a secret and deadly ingredient found in many pre-packaged foods and ready meals. If an individual is attempting to reduce blood pressure, home cooked meals should be consumed with very little or no salt at all.

The amount of alcohol consumed can greatly influence blood pressure. Government recommendations are that men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol and women no more that 14 units per week. A unit of alcohol could be a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or cider or a single pub measure of spirit. Despite the fact that these are the national recommendations, in order to lower blood pressure, it may be advisable that fewer units of alcohol or ideally no alcohol should be consumed.

Increasing the quantities of fruit and vegetables in one's diet can help to reduce blood pressure. A person should aim to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of fresh, dried, tined and frozen origins. However, caution should be taken to ensure no extra salts and sugarshave been added to pre-packaged fruits and vegetables.

Sleep is one of the most important things that the human body needs to function at its optimum. Sleep deprivation has been scientifically associated with increased incidence of hypertension. There are a number of scientific journals that have examined the effects of being in tune with circadian rhythms or internal biological clock and blood pressure and stress levels. Regulated by changes in light, melatonin is one of the hormones that effects whether a person feels alert or tired. During daylight hours the production of melatonin is inhibited meaning a person will feel awake and alert. At night, when there is no sun light, the body will produce the melatonin hormone, this makes a person feel tired and sleepy. Although every person is individual, it is natural for humans to need to sleep in hours of darkness specifically between around 9:30 at night and 6:30 in the morning with slightly less sleep needed in summer months.