Ions at the Heart of Health

What is hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood pushing through the arteries becomes too great, which may eventually lead to problems such as heart failure, aneuryisms, heart attacks, strokes, and weaked blood vessels in the kidneys.

Ion Channels

The contractions that cause the heartbeat are due to the flow of potassium through the cell. Some of these valves, or ion channels, are responsible for the flow of potassium, while others allow for the flow of sodium. Potassium currents are essential to many processes within the cells, such as communication. The potassium ions carry a tiny charge that causes electricity to be present. These electric signals, also known as action potentials regulate the contractions of the heart. Action potentials result from depolarization and repolarization, or the as the flow of ions into heart muscles and through the membrane channels, followed by the reverse ion current.

Causes of Hypertension

Hypertension can be caused by smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, too much salt in the diet, alcohol consumption, stress, old age, and genetics.

Maintaining a Heathy Heart

To maintain a healthy heart, it is necessary to take preventative measures against hypertension. While in some cases, such as a genetic predisposition or old age, high blood pressure cannot be prevented, there are many steps you can take to protect your health.

· Change your diet to include more potassium, calcium, magnesium, fish oils, and garlic

· Drink alcohol in moderation

· Exercise regularly

· Maintain a healthy body weight

· Minimize stress

· Reduce sodium intake

· Avoid smoking

· Check your blood pressure regularly and talk to your doctor about any abnormalities you may notice


In addition to natural methods, several medications are used to treat hypertension, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, alpha-agonists, and renin inhibitors.

Facts about hypertension

    67 million adults in the United States suffer from hypertension

    120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic) is the normal blood pressure reading for people over the age of 20

    In 2009, more than 348,000 deaths were caused by hypertension

    The likeliness of developing high blood pressure varies among different ages and races