High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is sometimes called the “silent killer.” Although it can often be asymptomatic, high blood pressure can have serious, and even fatal, consequences, so it’s important to understand the factors that can put you at risk for the condition and make lifestyle choices that reduce it Read on to learn about a routine activity many of us do in the bathroom that researchers say could increase your risk of developing high blood pressure.
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What exactly happens to your body when you have high blood pressure? Blood pressure is “the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels,” says the American Heart Association (AHA). “When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a tube-like network of blood vessels, including arteries, veins and capillaries,” they explain.
When this pressure increases, it forces the heart and blood vessels to work harder. The AHA explains that “over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries,” leading to plaque formation. “The more plaque and damage builds up, the narrower (smaller) the inside of the arteries become, raising blood pressure and starting a vicious cycle that further damages the arteries, the heart and the rest of the body.”
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When left unchecked, high blood pressure can cause a wide range of complications, according to the Mayo Clinic. “The higher the blood pressure and the longer it is not controlled, the greater the damage,” their experts explain. The ramifications of high blood pressure include an increased risk of heart failure and stroke, as well as vision loss, sexual dysfunction and peripheral artery disease (PAD), reports the AHA. They point out that hypertension can also lead to kidney disease or failure: “High blood pressure can damage the arteries around the kidneys and interfere with their ability to filter blood effectively.”
And although it is often asymptomatic, hypertension can also manifest itself with symptoms that affect the quality of your daily life. According to Verywell Health, these include frequent headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath. They also list less common but worrisome symptoms such as vision changes, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and decreased appetite.
Because high blood pressure often has no symptoms, it’s important to get tested regularly. The Mayo Clinic advises that healthy adults without risk factors should have their blood pressure checked at least every two to five years. Those who are 40 or older, or who are at higher risk of hypertension, should have their blood pressure checked annually, they say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that high blood pressure “usually develops over time” and can be the result of certain health conditions, including diabetes and obesity. Lack of exercise and a poor diet can also contribute to hypertension. WebMD reports that a potassium deficiency can also be a problem. “Even if you eat a low-salt diet, you could still have higher blood pressure if you don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, beans, low-fat dairy, or fish,” they explain. Other causes may include the medication you are taking and a surprising oral hygiene habit.
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Daily brushing and flossing are a vital component of good oral hygiene; not only does it help keep your gums and teeth healthy, but it has also been shown to possibly reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, oral cancer, and other serious chronic conditions. But before you follow your regular bathing routine with a mouthwash, consider this: A November 2019 study published by the National Library of Medicine found that “frequent regular use of over-the-counter mouthwashes was associated with an increased risk of hypertension. independent of major risk factors for hypertension and several other potential confounders.”
Because? It all comes down to bacteria. “Some oral bacteria can cause periodontal disease and other problems, while other oral bacteria convert dietary nitrate into nitric oxide (NO), which helps maintain normal blood pressure,” he reports. Dentistry today. “Now, a multi-institutional team of researchers has found that chlorhexidine in mouthwash can kill these good bacteria and increase systolic blood pressure.”
Mouthwash can also cause other problems, such as tooth damage and potentially dangerous interactions with certain medications. If you like the feeling of using mouthwash, look for one without chemicals and other harsh ingredients that can interfere with your mouth’s natural bacterial balance.