High blood pressure runs in the family
A family reunion is a fantastic way to rejuvenate faith in God. Last Saturday I spent quality time with relatives only seen every two years. I would like to spend more time with them but distance and timing are the issue.
As I looked into the eyes of an 86-year-old aunt or my 9-month-old niece, I was reminded that I shared part of everyone’s genetic makeup. During the course of the day, I thought of Psalm 139:13–15: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
More than half of the people at the reunion picnic grove had similar DNA running through their veins; the others are lucky enough to love us. Traits like brown eyes and brown hair were common. Distinctive cowlicks that disrupt smooth straight hair were found in distant cousins.
I am sure that if I took a survey to identify a family health history, high blood pressure and electrolyte imbalance would be top on the list. Aunt Rose says that Grandfather John died of complications of high blood pressure. It runs in the family.
Muscles depend on certain minerals that a body receives from our food. Sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus are the common electrolytes. These minerals affect the amount of water in the body. They also determine the acidity of the blood and allow muscles to function properly.
An imbalance of electrolytes can cause weakness, twitching, seizures, numbness, muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, convulsions, bone disorders and blood pressure changes, even death. Electrolytes become imbalanced by many different causes but mainly from the loss of water through sweating, vomiting or diarrhea.
These minerals cause the nerves to actually respond to an electrical charge. Water is the medium that allows the electrical activity to travel throughout the body.
When the minerals or water are in short supply, the muscles and other organs just do not function properly. The heart is a series of muscles that depend upon a precise balance of electrolyte and water combination. Relatives are quirky enough without an electrolyte imbalance adding to the situation.
The older relatives and the babies were not the only ones at high risk of an imbalance of electrolytes. Anyone who takes a blood pressure medication needs to be properly hydrated to maintain a balance of sodium and potassium and other minerals.
Luckily, the weather for the reunion was comfortable, not sweltering hot. Sweating was kept to a minimum. Electrolytes lost in perspiration can be dangerous to someone prone to an imbalance.
Water, juices and fruit provide adequate electrolytes even on an extremely hot day. Sports drinks are not needed unless an activity causes someone to sweat for more than an hour.
Looking through the photos of that warm day in July the familiar faces remind me once again that we are all wonderfully made. Cowlicks and high blood pressure are just two of the similarities.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator, registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville. Contact her at email@example.com or 330–684-4776.