Road Today - - Guest Column: Health -

Hello ev­ery­one. I hope that all of you are en­joy­ing the nice sum­mer weather that we have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lately. When I was de­cid­ing on the topic of this month’s ar­ti­cle I no­ticed that I have not talked about hypertension or high blood pres­sure. I found this very sur­pris­ing as it is one of the most com­mon health con­di­tions among truck driv­ers. As a result, in this is­sue I am go­ing to give you a brief over­view about hypertension. Let’s get started.

Let me ask you a ques­tion. Would you drive your truck down the road with too much air in your tires? I am sure your an­swer was NO! Just like your tires, your ar­ter­ies have an ideal op­er­at­ing pres­sure and if you in­crease the pres­sure too much, prob­lems will arise.

Blood pres­sure is sim­ply a mea­sure of the vol­ume of blood your heart has to pump and the amount of re­sis­tance to blood flow in your ar­ter­ies. Ba­si­cally, the more blood your heart has to pump and the nar­rower your ar­ter­ies, the higher your blood pres­sure.

Most peo­ple live with high blood pres­sure for many years with­out be­ing aware of it. How­ever, if el­e­vated blood pres­sure goes un­de­tected for too long, it can in­crease your risk of se­ri­ous health prob­lems such as car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and stroke.

Gen­er­ally, peo­ple do not ex­pe­ri­ence many symp­toms un­til their blood pres­sure reaches dan­ger­ous lev­els. At which point they may com­plain of headaches, dizzy spells or fre­quent nose bleeds. If you reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence these symp­toms, it is very im­por­tant to con­sult with your doc­tor as soon as pos­si­ble. I know that it is of­ten dif­fi­cult to schedule ap­point­ments while on the road, so if you are un­able to get into your reg­u­lar doc­tor’s of­fice, try get­ting into a lo­cal walk-in clinic or even a drug store as many of them have blood pres­sure gauges for the public to use.

There are two main cat­e­gories of hypertension, pri­mary and sec­ondary. The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple have pri­mary hypertension. This type of hypertension has no iden­ti­fi­able cause and tends to de­velop grad­u­ally over many years. Sec­ondary hypertension is caused by an un­der­ly­ing con­di­tion such as kid­ney and heart dis­or­ders as well as some med­i­ca­tions.

Who is at risk for de­vel­op­ing hypertension? Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied sev­eral risk fac­tors for hypertension, some of which you can con­trol and others you can not. Age, race and fam­ily are among the risk fac­tors that you can not con­trol. I am go­ing to fo­cus on the risk fac­tors that are mod­i­fi­able. Firstly, main­tain­ing a health body weight is es­sen­tial. The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxy­gen and nu­tri­ents to your tis­sues. As I have said many times, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity will not only help keep your weight down but will also strengthen your heart which in turn will re­duce your blood pres­sure. A ma­jor risk fac­tor of con­cern for truck driv­ers is the use of to­bacco. To­bacco not only im­me­di­ately raises your blood pres­sure but also dam­ages the walls of your ar­ter­ies caus­ing them to be­come nar­rower. Fi­nally, re­duc­ing your salt intake and stress lev­els will also help to re­duce or main­tain your blood pres­sure.

Un­con­trolled hypertension can lead to many health con­di­tions in­volv­ing the or­gans of the body as well as the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem. Aneurysms and heart fail­ure are com­mon with ex­ces­sive blood pres­sure which is sus­tained over a long pe­riod of time. Other prob­lems such as re­duced brain func­tion and eye and kid­ney com­pli­ca­tions are also con­cerns of hypertension.

Life­style mod­i­fi­ca­tion can greatly re­duce your blood pres­sure. How­ever, some­times chang­ing your life­style is not enough. In that case, your doc­tor will pre­scribe med­i­ca­tions to help bring your blood pres­sure down to normal lim­its.

Af­ter read­ing this ar­ti­cle, I hope you have a better un­der­stand­ing of hypertension and re­al­ized how im­por­tant it is to main­tain a healthy life­style on the road.

Un­til next month, drive safely.

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