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What High Blood Pressure Does to Your Body (And Why It Should Be Treated)

It affects nearly one in three adults in France.

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What High Blood Pressure Does to Your Body (And Why It Should Be Treated)

It affects nearly one in three adults in France. But due to lack of symptoms and sufficient screening, four out of ten patients are unaware of being affected. However, treatment of high blood pressure is essential. Because by persisting, it exposes us to a significant risk: it kills 11 million people around the world every year!

Eric, in his fifties, suffered from it for years without knowing it. “I often had headaches in the back of my head when I woke up in the morning, but I thought it was a migraine. » In him, high blood pressure was not secondary to taking certain medications or to other diseases (endocrine glands, adrenals, kidneys, etc.) as it is in 10% of people. It fell into the other category, called essential, and associated with a whole series of potential causes. Some are difficult to modify, such as age, gender, family history, etc. Others, much more avoidable, such as overweight, a sedentary lifestyle, an unbalanced diet, excessive consumption of salt, tobacco, alcohol, etc. With high levels of “bad” cholesterol, diabetes, and more broadly, metabolic syndrome.

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“The higher the blood sugar level, the more prolonged this hyperglycemia, the higher the risk of cardiovascular accident,” underlines Professor Louis Potier, diabetologist and nutritionist at Bichat-Claude hospital. Bernard (AP-HP/Inserm/University of Paris-Cité). The blood vessels will, in fact, thicken and stiffen. From then on, all organs will be less well irrigated, resulting in a risk of damage to the heart (infarction), eyes (retinopathy), kidneys (renal failure), etc. In addition, the covering of the aorta can tear: this is aortic dissection, a life-threatening emergency. Finally, the arteries are likely to become blocked, as a result of a process involving inflammatory cells and lipids, leading to stroke or myocardial infarction. And the heart, having to work harder, ends up tiring (heart failure).

To avoid getting to that point, Éric is treated, like around 11 million French people. There are several families of medications available (angiotensin II receptor antagonists, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, diuretics, beta-blockers, etc.) and as Professor Potier indicates, “as soon as you control your blood pressure blood pressure, cardiovascular risk decreases very quickly. It nevertheless points out the harmful effects of hyperglycemia, the effects of which on the arteries persist.

“A message to get across: blood pressure measurement is done at the doctor's office,” insists Professor Boris Hansel, diabetologist and nutritionist at Bichat-Claude-Bernard hospital. As for prevention, it is based on a healthy lifestyle: not smoking, moving more, eating better, with less salt and alcohol. To be followed, including under drug treatment.

Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, with the right amount of poultry, fish, nuts, but little red meat and sugar. This is the Dash diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) successfully tested in a clinical trial in the late 1990s to lower blood pressure. Researchers improved it to bring daily sodium consumption below the 2,300 mg (or 5 g of salt) recommended by the World Health Organization for adults. A challenge. Because, beyond the salt shaker, and in varying concentrations, there is sodium in almost all our foods!

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