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Source: Disturbances Of The Heart
One of the most common causes of hypertension is clue to excess of
eating and drinking. The products caused by maldigestion of
proteins, and the toxins formed and absorbed especially from meat
proteins, particularly when the excretions are insufficient, are the
most frequent causes of hypertension. Whatever other element or
condition may have caused increased blood pressure, the first step
toward improving and lowering this pressure is to diminish the
amount of meat eaten or to remove it entirely from the diet. In
pregnancy where there is increased metabolic change, when the
proteins are not well or properly cared for in gout, and when there
is intestinal fermentation or putrefaction, hypertension is likely
to occur. The increased blood pressure in these cases is directly
due to irritation of the toxins on the blood vessel walls.
While alcohol does not tend to raise arterial blood pressure, in
large amounts it may raise the venous pressure. Also, by causing an
abundant appetite and thus increasing the amount of food taken, by
interfering with the activity of the liver, and by impairing the
intestinal digestion, it can indirectly disturb the metabolism and
cause enough toxin to be produced to raise the blood pressure.
Any drug or substance that raises the blood pressure by stimulating
the vasomotor center or the arterioles, when constantly repeated,
will be a cause of hypertension. This is particularly true of
caffein and nicotin. Also, anything that might stimulate, or that
does stimulate, the suprarenal glands will cause a continued high
blood pressure. It is quite probable that in many cases of gout the
suprarenals are hypersecreting and it has been shown by Cannon, Aub
and Binger [Footnote: Cannon, Aub and Binger: Jour. Pharmacol. and
Exper. Therap., March, 1912.] that nicotin in small closes increases
the suprarenal secretion. Therefore, nicotin becomes a decided cause
of hypertension and arteriosclerosis.
Thayer found that heavy work is the cause of about two thirds of all
cases of arteriosclerosis, and one of the functions of the
suprarenals is to destroy the waste products of muscular activity;
hence these glands, in these cases, are hypersecreting. Furthermore,
the reason that many infections are followed later by arterio-
sclerosis may be the fact that the suprarenals have been stimulated
to hypertrophy and hypersecrete.
Many persons in middle life, and especially women at the time of the
menopause, show hypertension without arterial or kidney reason. At
this time of life the thyroid is disturbed, and often, especially if
weight is added, it is not secreting sufficiently. Whether, with the
polyglandular disturbance of the menopause the suprarenals are
excited and hypersecreting, or whether they are simply relatively
secreting more vasopressor substance than is combated by the
vasodilator substance from the thyroid, cannot be determined. These
women are energetic, and look full of health and full of strength,
but their faces frequently flush, sometimes they are dizzy, and the
systolic blood pressure is too high. Reisman has pointed out that
these patients are likely to have very large breasts, and there is
reason to believe that we must begin to study more carefully the
effect of large breasts on the metabolism of girls and women. There
certainly is an internal secretion of some importance furnished by
In hyperthyroidism at first the blood pressure may be lowered on
account of the increased physiologic secretion of the thyroid gland.
Later the blood pressure may be raised by stimulation of the
suprarenals, or it may become raised from the irritated and
stimulated heart becoming hypertrophied. If the heart is normal the
ventricles should hypertrophy with the increased work that they are
under; and the blood pressure could increase for this reason. Later
in exophthalmic goiter the heart muscle may become degenerated, a
chronic myocarditis, and the ventricles may slightly dilate. At this
time the blood pressure is lowered. When such a condition has
occurred, the heart bears thyroidectomy badly; hence an operation on
this gland should, if possible, be performed before the heart muscle
has become injured. If the heart shows signs of loss of power, minor
operations to cut off the blood supply of the thyroid should first
be done, and the patient's heart allowed to improve before a
thyroidectomy is performed.
Men with hypertension without kidney or arterial excuse are likely
to have been athletes, or to have done some severe competitive work,
or, as above stated, to have labored hard, or to have worked at high
tension, or in great excitement, or with mental worry, all of which
tend, as long as there is health, to increase the blood pressure.
These men may add weight from the age of 40 on, or they may be thin
and wiry. Besides the hypertension there is likely to be a too
sturdily acting heart, which is often hypertrophied, and there is an
accentuated closure of the aortic valve. There may be dizziness, or
no head symptoms at all. Nicotin is likely to be an etiologic factor
in this class.
These women and these men may all be improved by proper treatment,
and the condition may not develop into arteriosclerosis or
Neurotic conditions, and in some instances neurasthenic conditions,
may show a blood pressure higher than normal. Lead may be a cause of
increased blood pressure, and diabetics occasionally have a high
pressure, although more frequently there is a lowering of blood
pressure in diabetes.
Richman believes that syphilis is the most common cause of
hypertension and arteriosclerosis without renal disease. When
arteriosclerosis and renal disease are combined, of course the
highest systolic readings occur. He thinks that when high tension
occurs under 40 years of age, kidney disease is generally the cause.
Of course it may be the only cause later in life.
High blood pressure due to syphilitic conditions may be greatly
improved by the proper treatment, although some one or more blood
vessels are likely to have been seriously damaged. Although these
patients may live for many years, they are likely to have an
apoplexy, cerebral disease or an aneurysm.
While hypertension is not a disease, and while it often should not
be combated, still, as it is always the forerunner of more serious
trouble, there can be no excuse for not most seriously considering
it and generally attempting its reduction. At the moment high
tension is discovered, there may be no special symptoms; but
troublesome symptoms are always pending, and while the patient need
not be unduly alarmed, there is no excuse for not rearranging the
individual's life so as to prolong it. This is not to state that
every high tension must be lowered, but every hypertension must be
studied and a safer systolic pressure caused if it is possible
without interfering with the person's efficiency. A high diastolic
pressure, one above 105, certainly must receive immediate attention,
and a diastolic pressure of 110 must be lowered, if possible. On the
other hand, a high systolic pressure without a high diastolic
pressure should not be rapidly lowered, else depression will be