Potassium and High Blood Pressure Analysis

Family Health History

It is important to note from the onset that although I came to the U.S. approximately 17 years ago, my parents have been residing in this country for over 35 years. Being of African descent, the West African country of Ghana is my country of birth. My immediate family has 7 members (I included). Known across the world for its cocoa, my home country harbors many of my other family members including but not limited to my cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, etc. Having undertaken an extensive research of my family history, I can trace the same to my great grandfather who was born 119 years ago. He is effectively the very first know male ancestor whose birth, death, as well as occupation I was able to verify.

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As I have already pointed out above, I came to the United States 17 years ago. Given that most members of my extended family reside in my native country, there are only a few of them that I know well. Some of those I could claim to have close relations with include those I have kept in touch with since I left Ghana and those already in the U.S. If I were asked to give a definite number, I would give 11. The eleven members of the extended family in this case include 3 uncles and 4 cousins already in the U.S. And 4 cousins in Ghana with whom I have been in touch with all through. It is however important to note that there are several other members of the extended family I can contact and perhaps talk to. In addition to my 2 aunts in Russia, 1 nephew in the UK and another in South Africa, there are 6 more members of the extended family in Ghana I could contact and talk to. It should however be noted that for one reason or another, I have not been able to closely associate or relate with the said members of the extended family. This is something I should really consider doing going forward.

When an individual in our family gets sick, there are a wide range of remedies that are often considered. It should be noted that in this case, most my family’s health practices have their origin in Ghana – my native land. To begin with, common colds in my family are typically treated using ginger tea or garlic tea. It would be prudent to briefly highlight how these “cold cures” are made. The key components of garlic tea are honey, lemon, and garlic. All one has to do to make garlic tea is to mix these three components together using a recommended formula. In this case, one is required to boil approximately one cup of water together with a single clove of garlic. After the water boils, fresh lemon juice and honey should be added into the cooling water and with this; the “magic” cure for common colds is ready for drinking. For each cup of water, a 1/4 cup of honey and a 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice would be sufficient. Three cups of garlic tea a day for three days are often sufficient to cure a common cold. As I have already pointed out, ginger tea is yet another commonly used remedy for common colds in my family. Preparation for ginger tea is similar to that of garlic tea — only that this time one uses ginger instead of garlic.

When it comes to remedying fever, all one requires is a pair of socks and a few slices of onion. The procedure in this case is pretty simple. Onion slices are put in the sick individual’s socks and after that, the said individual is required to slip on the pair of socks. If the symptoms persist, the procedure can be repeated. Next, in addition to being used as an ingredient in curing common colds, garlic has also been used as a remedy for hypertension in my family. To lower high blood pressure, it is recommended that an individual chews a garlic clove. The chewing in this case should be done on an empty stomach as it is then that the medicinal properties of garlic become most effective as far as controlling high blood pressure is concerned. After chewing the garlic, it is advisable for one to take a cup of warm water so as to eliminate the lingering taste of garlic in the mouth. Alternatively, those who find it hard to chew ginger could chop the same into smaller pieces and then swallow them.

There are also a couple of home remedies used in my family to treat constipation. The first remedy in this case involves taking apple pectin. Yet another remedy used to treat constipation in my family is Aloe Vera juice. In this case, an individual suffering from constipation is required to consume a few glasses of the juice regularly, i.e. A glass each day for several days, to rein in the problem of constipation. For its effectiveness when it comes to fixing a troublesome digestive system, Aloe Vera remains a commonly utilized remedy in the treatment of constipation in my family. Next, folic acid is also used to remedy constipation. In this case, all one has to do is take lots of legumes and whole grains – all of which contain significant levels of folic acid. Individuals suffering from constipation are also advised to take lots of citrus fruits and greens. These two are also excellent sources of folic acid.

One of my family’s most dominant health problem has been hypertension. It should be noted that although there are a number of other health problems my family has grappled with in the past; I will largely concern myself with hypertension in this particular discussion. Commonly used in reference to hypertension, blood pressure according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health (2013) “is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body.” Most of those in my family who have been diagnosed with hypertension never knew they had the disease until they were diagnosed with the same. The initial lack of clear symptoms is what makes hypertension particularly dangerous. There are however those who had telltale symptoms of hypertension prior to diagnosis. For instance, prior to being diagnosed, a cousin of mine had been complaining of constant fatigue, severe headaches, chest pains, etc. In the section below, I will be highlighting some of the factors that could have contributed towards making hypertension a dominant health problem in my family.

According to Elliot (2007), “hypertension is a complex phenotype with multiple genetic and environmental risk factors, as well as important gene-environment interactions.” The first risk factor according to the author in this case is age. As an individual’s age advances, so does his or her risk of hypertension. According to Elliot (2007), individuals who happen to be older than 75 tend to be at the highest risk of hypertension. For this reason, the author concludes that as the population continues to age, the prevalence of high blood pressure is likely to increase.

Yet another contributing factor to hypertension is weight (Elliot, 2007). It is important to note that in comparison to those who weigh less, obese individuals require more blood to ensure that both oxygen and nutrients reach not only the muscles but also other body tissues (Blonna, Loschiavo, and Watter, 2011). For this reason, obese individuals have a higher volume of blood circulating through their blood vessels. It is this increased volume that eventually piles pressure on the concerned individuals’ artery walls. Closely related to this is a sedentary lifestyle which in its own right can also be regarded a risk factor to hypertension. According to Blonna, Loschiavo, and Watter (2011), individuals who do not engage in significant physical activity have a higher risk of hypertension than those who are more active. Inactivity has in the past been shown to be a prominent risk factor for obesity. By extension therefore, inactive individuals tend to be at a higher risk of hypertension that their active counterparts. People who are inactive as Blonna, Loschiavo, and Watter (2011) point out tend to have heart rates that are significantly higher. As you may know, a higher heart rate means that the heart has to work much harder with every subsequent contraction. This ends up pilling significant pressure on an individual’s arteries. Gender is yet another factor that has in the past been identified as a contributing factor to hypertension. According to Elliot (2007), “overall, more women than men are affected by hypertension, in part because of their longer life expectancy.”

Next, we have race as yet another contributing factor to hypertension. According to Elliot (2007), available data shows that “non-Hispanic white persons make up about two thirds of the U.S. adult hypertensive population…” it is however important to note that this is largely in consistence with the number of non-Hispanic white persons we have in the entire population. Those who happen to be disproportionately affected by hypertension according to Elliot (2007) are African-Americans. Family history of BP also plays a prominent role in the prevalence of hypertension. In the words of Elliot (2007), “data consistently indicate that BP levels are hereditable.” What this means is that studies have clearly demonstrated that an individual’s risk of high blood pressure is largely dependent on whether or not there is a history of hypertension in his or her family.

Other contributing factors in this case include but they are not limited to education, diet, alcohol and tobacco use. Individuals who ingest high amounts of sodium effectively decrease or lower the ability of their bodies to retain fluid. This in turn triggers an increase in their blood pressure. It is also important to note that high levels of alcohol intake have been associated with increased risk of blood pressure. For this reason, it makes great sense for individuals to limit their alcohol intake to recommended amounts. It should however be noted that currently, the exact reason as to why heavy drinkers have a higher risk of developing hypertension than moderate drinkers is still unknown (Blonna, Loschiavo, and Watter, 2011). According to the authors, it has been suggested that the damage alcohol occasions to the muscles of an individual’s heart could be responsible for hypertension. In regard to education, Elliot (2007) observes that in the past, hypertension has been closely associated with lower levels of education. However, as the author further points out, BP’s association with education could “be explained by differences in diet and in BMI between less well educated and better educated individuals.” When it comes to tobacco use, Blonna, Loschiavo, and Watter (2011) point out that chemicals present in tobacco have been shown to damage a smoker’s artery walls. This according to the authors causes the arteries of a smoker to accumulate significant deposits of fat containing cholesterol plaques. A prominent chemical constituent of tobacco, nicotine as Blonna, Loschiavo, and Watter (2011) point out has also been associated with blood vessel constriction.

In regard to my family, a number of risk factors identified above may be at play. The first risk factor likely to be at play in this case is genetics. As I have already pointed out above, a number of studies have clearly indicated that hypertension tends to run in families. For this reason, given my family’s history of hypertension, it is likely that many more members of the family are at high risk of high blood pressure. Next, quite a good number of members of my family are smokers. Smoking as I have also pointed out in the text above increases an individual’s likelihood of having hypertension. Although they cannot be categorized as heavy drinkers, a good number of my relatives also take alcohol. Four of those in my family having hypertension are also past the age of 75. Three of these are women. This is largely in consistence with findings to the effect that the risk of hypertension increases with age. It is also important to note that most members of my family are in professions that do not involve much physical activity, i.e. banking and teaching. Perhaps, as a result of their inactivity, quite a good number of my family members could be regarded overweight. As I have already pointed out elsewhere in this text, sedentary lifestyles have been blamed for increased risk of hypertension. Further, obesity is another well-known risk factor for hypertension. In the final analysis, these factors join to increase my family’s predisposition to high blood pressure.

The relevance of identifying and reducing the risks of hypertension identified in this text cannot be overstated. This is more so the case given that individuals with hypertension also tend to be at a higher risk of developing a myriad of other health complications including but not limited to stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease (Blonna, Loschiavo, and Watter, 2011). For this reason, I remain convinced that as a health professional, I have an obligation to work with my family in an attempt to reduce or bring down the risk of hypertension in the family. The first step I could take in this case is to advise my family members to embrace physical exercise. Aerobic type exercises would in this case come in handy as they seek to keep their body weight in check. Secondly, I could elect to encourage those in my family who smoke to cease the habit as it leaves them more exposed to high blood pressure. This is more so the case given the harmful effects of some of the chemicals found in tobacco.

Although moderate alcohol intake has not been linked to hypertension, members of my family would be better advised to stop taking alcohol altogether especially given that they are already exposed to hypertension given the family history of the same. Those who find it particularly challenging to “quit the bottle” must ensure that they stick to the recommended levels of alcohol intake. Women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) must not exceed a single drink per day. On the other hand, men must limit the alcoholic drinks they take per day to two (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). Diet is yet another issue members of my family need to focus on. In addition to ensuring that they lower or reduce their intake of sodium or salt in their diet, it would also be prudent for them to enhance their potassium intake. According to the American Heart Foundation (2012), the inclusion of natural sources of potassium in the diet helps in the control of blood pressure. According to the authors, potassium is particularly effective when it comes to lessening sodium effects (American Heart Foundation, 2012).

References

American Heart Foundation. (2012, April 4). Potassium and High Blood Pressure. Retrieved April 23, 2013, from: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp

Blonna, R., Loschiavo, J. & Watter, D.N. (2011). Health Counseling: A Microskills Approach for Counselors, Educators, and School Nurses (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). How to Prevent High Blood Pressure. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from: http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/what_you_can_do.htm

Elliot, W.J. (2007). Clinical Hypertension: A Companion to Braunwald’s Heart Disease. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Health Sciences.

U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health. (2013, March 22). Hypertension. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000468.htm


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