Monday, March 22, 2010

2 lows to bring you down

I am not a doctor. I have a background in anatomy, physiology and nutrition and an abiding interest in all things medical. Any information I give here is based on my own knowledge, experience and some research. I believe that many of today's ills can be ameliorated by healthy eating, but if you have chronic or unexplained symptoms, you need to find the cause and get that treated. Don't just treat the symptoms, your body is trying to tell you something. SEE YOUR DOCTOR.

Bron asks:
I battle terribly with low blood sugar and low blood pressure, despite healthy eating. I eat small meals regularly, but this doesn't seem to help. What can I do to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure up and consistent?

Before I answer this question, I feel I need to give a brief description and the common symptoms of each condition. A lot of people are frighteningly uninformed about the body.

The heart pumps blood around the body in order to supply oxygen and nutrients to every one of the hundreds of thousands of cells in the body. Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against the arterial walls as the heart pumps.

Low blood pressure (hypotension) would seem to be something desirable, since high blood pressure (hypertension) is known to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, low blood pressure can be very distressing and debillitating. With the body at rest, 'normal' blood pressure is said to be 120/80, but it is variable between individuals and within each individual (your blood pressure will vary throughout the day depending on what you happen to be doing at any given moment). Low blood pressure is 90/60 or lower, and high blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. This is very simplistically stated.

One person in every three with hypertension doesn't even know that they have it (that's why it's sometimes called the 'silent killer'), but if you suffer with hypotension you know about it. Symptoms include:
dizzyness/lightheadedness; palpitations; lack of concentration; blurred vision; nausea; cold, clammy skin; rapid shallow breathing; fatigue; depression and thirst.

As I mentioned, the heart pumps blood around the body to supply nutrients to the cells. These nutrients largely consist of 'sugars' (glucose is the result of digestion, and it's what your body runs on). The amount of glucose in the blood is controlled by courtesy of a hormone called insulin. Insulin is released into the blood stream when you eat, and it whips the glucose out of the blood for storage and later gradual release as energy when required. So you will appreciate that blood glucose levels will fluctuate throughout the day according to when you last ate, what you last ate and your activity levels. Again, this is very simplistic, and I'm talking about an averagely healthy person, not someone who is diabetic.

The symptoms of low blood sugar include:
hunger; headache; dizzyness/fainting; palpitations; confusion; blurred vision; nausea; clammy skin; drowsiness; irritability and nervousness. Sound familiar? Check the symptoms for low blood pressure again, and you will see that the two conditions have very similar presentation.

Tomorrow I'll talk about healthy eating to help ease these conditions.

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