Written by Dr. David Okorafor
Abnormally high blood pressure (hypertension) is very common among us black people but we don’t know because we don’t check it and it doesn’t announce itself. A research says 1 in every 4 persons in the world is hypertensive and 5 out of every 8 black man in the US is hypertensive. My little experience has also revealed to me that many people as young as 20 – 30yrs of age walk about with high blood pressure. However, this piece is not meant to panic you unduly. It should simply enlighten you on the meaning of hypertension so you can take care yourself and educate your friends and relations. Let’s look at it this way:
-There’s a garden of different kinds of green vegetation. This is the human body with its normally functioning organs and systems.
-The entire garden is criss-crossed with plastic pipes of different strengths and diameters, and they are all connected to a single central pump, a generator. The pipes are the blood vessels supplying the body organs and systems; the generator is the heart.
-This pump pushes water through all the pipes at a set normal pressure, to water the garden. The heart works at a normal blood pressure of 120mmHg/80mmHg.
-Even though this pressure may occasionally fluctuate, just slightly, it always returns to normal. By this means, the garden remains beautiful and lush. That is, blood pressure may go up or down during illness or other forms of stress, but usually gets normalised with recovery from the stress.
-Naturally, the pump gradually gets old with time due to use. Because, a living organ cannot last forever.
-However, the pump may malfunction too soon and may fail if the gardener has been tampering with it. Our dietary habit may affect the heart.
-The tampering could be by the gardener constantly mixing the fuel for the pump with abnormal quantities of additives. This is what excessive drinking of alcohol and ingestion of some drugs seem like. Alcohol generates fat (a kind of putty) in the wrong parts of the body and also punishes the heart directly.
-It could also be that the gardener tries to lubricate the pump by adding putty directly into it. This is what we do when we try to enjoy ourselves by feeding on certain kinds of food, e.g. fatty meat, fried meals, ice creams, butter, etc
– This putty flows into the pipes and adheres to the inner walls of the pipes, weakening the plastic of the pipes and narrowing their diameter. This is what abnormal and excessive body fat do to the blood vessels: narrow and weaken them by getting plastered on their inside-walls. This can lead to four major things:
1. The narrowed diameter causes the water to flow with high pressure. This high pressure begins to kill the plants gradually and unnoticeably. This is hypertension, a blood pressure above 140mmHg/90mmHg in somebody less than 50yrs. Generally, values higher than this in anybody should awaken caution. High blood pressure damages body organs slowly and ‘secretly’; this is why it is called a silent killer.
2. A pipe may become too narrow that a ball of putty or any other thing lodges there and blocks the flow. As a result, the plants that the particular pipe exclusively supplies, die. This often happens in the brain and is one kind of stroke (called thrombotic/symbolic).
3. A pipe can get so weak in its plastic that this new high pressure bursts it. The water flows out into the soil of the garden, but does not supply its target crops. This happens in the brain too, and is the second kind of stroke (hemorrhagic). Blood flows into the ordinary part of the brain, without nourishing its target cells. The cells die, hence speech, body movements and other functions may be lost.
4. The pump, even though it keeps adjusting its power by doing more work to overcome the pressure in the pipes, eventually gets tired and stops working. This is how high blood pressure results in heart failure.
This is a simple analogy that should help. Share with your friends if it helped.
~~~Dr. David Okorafor