Which vital male organ can high blood pressure stop working?
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Did you know high blood pressure can stop a vital organ working? Just being male increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but why all this fuss about getting your blood pressure checked? We ask Great Yarmouth GP Dr Sarah Flindall to tell us if and when we should worry about it.
I KNOW I'M FIT AND HEALTHY, WHY CHECK MY BLOOD PRESSURE?
Men are at more risk of heart attack and stroke than women, and obviously this risk escalates as you get older.
Any engineer will tell you that the pressure within a pipe is important to prevent damage ('Cap'ain she's going to blow!'). Your body works to heal damage, but the result is a thicker, less elastic, more 'furred up' pipe which affects flow. The body has a mechanism of measuring if flow is within the correct range and it starts up a cascade of changes to increase flow to vital organs, but unfortunately this has multiple knock on effects.
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Each is very tiny but over the years builds up, resulting in a lack of delivery of oxygen and nutrients to areas so they die. Especially vulnerable ones with high needs and a delicate network of delivery – your penis (erection issues), your eyes , your kidneys , your brain and your heart.
The whole process is dependent on a number of factors:
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The pressure generated by your engine, your heart.
The amount of water in the system and that is where salt (sodium) in your diet is concerned
Cholesterol - a part of which tends to accumulate to help plug the damaged wall but unfortunately it tends to act like limescale.
SHOULD I CUT BACK ON SALT?
Briefly, normal amounts of salt ( sodium) are not a big issue but unfortunately it is hidden inside processed food .Sauces and dips may be tiny amounts but they are massively concentrated in sodium – looking in my store cupboard some snack products contain 25% of an adult recommended intake in one serving! Addressing this can be part of a lifestyle change and pays dividends.
WHAT IS NORMAL BLOOD PRESSURE AND IF I'M STRESSED OR OUT OF BREATH WILL IT AFFECT MY RESULT?
The ideal blood pressure is the one that in the most people in your age group will result in the least damage to your body parts. If you are consistently above the higher value of 140 and a lower value of 90 I would like to treat you proactively with drugs. Blood pressure is variable – we get upset, we have to run, we sleep, we feel pain, we may be ill. I ask patients to do 14 or more readings and take the average over a few days or few weeks at different times to try and ensure the reading is accurate. An 'ideal' is thought to be 120-90 (higher number) systolic and 60-80 diastolic (lower number) but low blood pressure especially created by drugs, can have complications.
WILL I KNOW IF I HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
High blood pressure in general has no symptoms. However, when it is very high the damage it is doing to organs that try to tell you they are 'unhappy' does have symptoms. e.g. headache, fatigue, vision problems, chest pain, palpitations (feeling an unusual heart rhythm beating in your chest), even blood in your urine.
There is a blood pressure at which I would feel uncomfortable of 180/120, and after confirmation that it was a true reading with repeated observations over a 10 to 15 minute period, I would wish to initiate a treatment option. I am most likely to choose a tablet to drive the blood pressure down while I investigate what is triggering this result.
CAN I BE OVERWEIGHT AND UNFIT AND HAVE HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE?
Sure you can, especially if you come from strong genetic stock (mum/dad/extended family live long lives without any heart attacks or strokes). But you will be much more at risk in the longer term and the possibility of developing other long term disease processes is increased e.g. diabetes.
WHAT'S THE WORST CASE SCENARIO; MY HUSBAND SAYS HE DOESN'T WANT TO KNOW.
If you don't check it - you won't know until it is too late and your options of how you want to help yourself will be over or limited.
Get checked -.a few times! It could mean the difference between hospital , lots of drugs and disability or some lifestyle changes now!
Ex-Norwich City footballer Darren Eadie has been encouraging men to check their blood pressure. He's spearheading Menkind, a Norfolk County Council campaign to encourage men, particularly those aged over 40, to take care of themselves.
He's said he knows that many men prefer to think about almost anything other than their own health, and are far less likely than women to take themselves off to their GP if they have concerns.
While his health and fitness were very closely monitored by the Norwich City FC team when he was a professional footballer, he was interested to know what his blood pressure would be now he's out of the game but still trying to keep healthy.
Using a DIY blood pressure kit - similar are available from stores such as Boots and Argos - Darren tested himself.
Great Yarmouth GP Dr Sarah Flindall analysed his result:
'Darren's BP reading of 109/74 is fabulous especially knowing that he feels well in himself.
He, and those advising him, have looked after him physically from childhood and that payback is fantastic. His body will change and monitoring it on an annual basis or if he knows he has had a period of lifestyle change would now be a useful option. Unfortunately for the vast majority of the public, who have not had high level dietary and physical support that opportunity has been lost (the damage is already done!) but progressive deterioration can be slowed.'