Blood Pressure. By this is meant the pressure of the blood on the walls of the artery through which it is flowing. The arteries are a set of elastic tubes; when the left ventricle contracts the blood is forced into these tubes which expand. At this instant the pressure is at its highest; then the arteries contract and the blood is forced on until the vessels are empty. This is the point of least pressure and is called the minimal pressure in contrast to the full artery or the maximal pressure; the first representing the resistance offered by the artery, the second representing the heart energy. The pulse pressure represents the "head" in the arteries which tends to drive the blood onward. This is scientifically measured by an instrument called the sphygmomanometer, something like a gauge, which registers the highest and lowest pressures and the pulse. The usual maximal pressure for men under 50 is 130 mm., for women 120 mm., women usually having 1015 mm. lower pressure than men, age and general conditions being the same. The minimal pressure is from 2540 mm. below maximal in the same individual, the usual limit being 65110 mm. The following table will show the blood pressure in healthy persons at various ages.
The normal pulse pressure ranges from 25 to 40 mm. A maximal pressure above 150 or below 100 millimeters, and a pulse pressure above 50 or below 20 millimeters, may be regarded as a sign of disease. Of course the blood pressure varies at different times of the day and is affected by position, exercise, excitement, digestion, etc. Alcohol and tobacco in continued or excessive use cause increased blood pressure, as will excesses of various kinds, particularly mental or physical overwork, overeating or following the acute infectious diseases like typhoid and scarlet fever, syphilis and leadpoisoning. In persons past middle life increased blood pressure is frequently associated with great and untiring energy, and it is a common thing to read of cases of sudden death in those who have remarked on their wellbeing shortly before.
A low blood pressure is indicative particularly of tubercular dangers. A maximal pressure of 150 mm. or lower, with a relatively high minimal pressure, together with a low pulse pressure even in the absence of any other symptom, should lead to careful observation until absolute proof has been gleaned that the trouble is nontubercular. The pulse pressure should be carefully watched in low pressure cases; for as the patient improves this pressure approaches nearer the normal, thus proving a valuable guide to prognosis and treatment. General debility from overwork, depressed nervous condition due to exhausted nervecenters and in conditions where a large amount of fluid is withdrawn from the circulation, as in neurasthenia, shock, hemorrhage, venesection, diarrhea, etc., are usually accompanied by a fall in the blood pressure.
In valvular heart disease there is little change in the blood pressure, the principal value of the examination being to determine the condition of the heart muscles. Chronic Brights disease is almost always associated with an increase in pressure. In coma, if the pressure is slow, the trouble is probably alcoholic or epileptic; if high it is due to apoplexy, uroemia or cerebral injury. In diabetes both low and high pressures are noted. In typhoid the pressure begins to fall from the end of the first and continues till the fourth week; as recovery is approached the pressure slowly resumes a normal condition. A marked rise in pressure usually attends perforation of the bowel while serious hemorrhage is attended by a fall. In the advent of kidney disease in scarlet fever the pressure is quickly increased.
The treatment of high blood pressure is directed towards stopping the ingestion of foods, drinks and drugs that would cause intoxication, promote arterial trouble or irritate the kidneys; to lower the pressure; and to prevent putrefaction in the intestinal canal. Not only the amount of certain foods but the total amount taken must be lessened. Meats and fish should be eaten but once daily if at all and only vegetables which do not cause flatulency. Fruits which agree best may be allowed, but no tea or coffee, alcohol or tobacco. Liquids taken depend on the trouble, as it is not advisable to put any extra strain on the kidneys. Cardiac tonics as strychnine, quinine and salicylates are contraindicated. Iodides in small doses (2 or 3 grains) 3 times daily are best in cases of arteriosclerosis. If the patient is overweighted, the pulse slow, skin dry and there is a tendency to puffing without edema, thyroid gland is indicated in 23 grain doses once daily; contraindicated in those who have nervous irritability. Nitroglycerine in some form is always advisable.
Need of a Healthy Brain. In order that we may get correct ideas of the external world, it is necessary that the brain, the nerves, and the organs of sense through which sensations are made upon the mind, should be in a healthy condition. It is evident that ff the instruments of sensation be diseased, the sensation cannot be natural, and will make a false report to the mind. It is of the highest importance, therefore, that the brain should be sound.
Improper Intermarriages. This organ, Eke every other, may inherit disease from parents. Insanity, which springs from a diseased brain, is often hereditary. When both parents are diseased, the offspring are of course more liable to partake of their defects. Among the wealthy, and particularly among the royal families in Europe, nervous diseases and sterility are very common. This arises, in a great part, from intermarriages among blood relations, a practice under which any people will degenerate, and finally perish. The wisdom of the Old Testament prohibition of marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity has been established by the observation of philosophers and the experience of mankind. Let those who will transmit to their descendants a sound mind in a sound body, observe the laws of life, and avoid all marriages with blood relations.
Need of a Good Supply of Blood. For a proper performance of its duties, the brain requires and receives a larger supply of blood than any other part of the system. Onetenth of all the blood goes to this important organ. If the quantity or quality be materially lessened or changed, great disturbance of the brain follows. A large loss of blood occasions dizziness and fainting. If an atmosphere charged with too much carbonic acid gas be breathed, as in a deep well, the blood is not vitalized in the lungs, so as to sustain the brain, and unconsciousness soon follows. If the air be vitiated in any way, or have its oxygen extracted, as in large assemblies, where it is breathed over several times, it becomes unfit to support the brain, and the result is languid feelings, inability to apply the mind, headache, fainting, hysterics, and other nervous manifestations.
~ Ventilation. This shows the great necessity of having dwellings, churches, and schoolhouses well ventilated.
Were a good system of ventilation adopted in all our churches, ministers would seldom preach to sleeping audiences. A congregation sitting in one of our places of public worship, where the air in a single afternoon is as many times used over as the minister's sermons are in a lifetime, can neither hear with attention, nor comprehend with clearness.
In many of our schoolhouses, the ventilation is quite as bad, and the consequences worse, because they are occupied six' hours of the day instead of three, and five days of the week in place of one. In the small schoolhouses which our children filled to overflowing in former years, in which there was no ventilation, unless they happened to be blessed with an oldfashioned chimney and fireplace, the effects upon the nervous system of the children was deplorable. Many of the diseases which afflict the present generation of men and women bad their origin in the bad air of those crowded nurseries of education.
Our dwellings were partly ventilated in olden time, when the open fireplace received the 11 backlog," the 11 topstick," the , fore stick," and other sticks to match; but since we have been warmed by the stove and the furnace we have known little of the luxury of pure air at the domestic hearth.
Need of Exercise for the Brain. Health requires that the brain should be properly occupied with vigorous thought. The same reasons may be given for this as for the exercise of the muscles. It is governed by the same laws which apply to other parts of the system. Use improves its strength and vigor; idleness causes it to grow feeble. Of course the labor it is put to should be only reasonable in amount, and should not be too long continued at any one time. With the weakening of the brain, the whole bodily forces, and indeed the whole mental and moral character, fall into feebleness and decay. It is a great mistake to suppose that the cultivation and even vigorous use of the mind impairs health and shortens life. Just the opposite is true. Many of the most eminently intellectual men, who have worked their brains hard all their lives, have been distinguished for long life.
Bad Effect of Change in Circumstances. No class of persons suffer more from nervous diseases and general illhealth than those who, having worked hard in early life, with little or no cultivation of the mind, are suddenly raised to wealth, and immediately drop all exercise, and fall into habits of indolence and luxury. The condition of such persons would be much less pitiable, did they take up books when they lay by the hoe or the broom. But they seldom do this. Many a woman, in early life, has felt the glow of health in every limb, and a thrill of pleasure, too, while scrubbing the floor on her bands and knees, who has, in subsequent years, reclined in misery upon her damaskcovered lounge, and wondered that she could not have the health of other days. Let her cultivate her brain, live temperately, and exercise in the open air, and life may again have real pleasures for her.
Discretion in Exercising the Brain. In exercising the brain we must use discretion. We must not sit down in the morning, and ply it with work during the whole day, without rest. This would soon bring upon it disease, or premature decay. It should be worked only until it begins to show symptoms of fatigue. Then it should be permitted to rest; or, what is better, be turned to some new subject, of a lighter, or a different character. This often rests the brain better than to entirely suspend its action.
Overworking the Brain in Childhood. Great care should be used not to exercise the brain too much in early life. Like other parts of the system, it is tender in childhood, and will not bear prolonged exertion. As a general thing, children are put to school too early, and made to work their brains too bard. Great mischief arises from this source. Children are born with larger brains now than formerly; and it is no uncommon thing to see upon a child of ten 3,ears, a head equal in size to that of an adult. Children run to brain. Precocity in development of brain and mind is common. The results of stimulating and hastening the unfolding of such minds are deplorable. In such children, the brain should be the last thing to be cultivated. We do not need to urge its growth. It will come forward fast enough in spite of us. Our chief aim should be to harden and fortify the general constitution, so that the brain which it is required to bear up and sustain may long be its crown and glory. Yet parents are proud of their precocious children, and often reverse this rule. They do it thoughtlessly, and would be terribly startled could they suddenly look into the future and see the results of their folly. Could they do so, they would see inflammation and softening of the brain, epilepsy, insanity, paralysis, apoplexy, with all the horrors of undescribed and indescribable nervous affections, which, though without a name, have a terrible reality.
Old People's Brains. Persons in advanced life should be particularly careful not to overwork the brain. In middle life it recovers easily from great fatigue. In the decline of life, its powers of recovery are feeble. A single exhaustion may cause its fatal collapse. Old age should be distinguished for gentleness and moderation. The journey of the downhill of life should be made by short and easy stages, through regions of diversified beauty.
A Supply of Blood. Every part of the system, when hard at work, needs and must have a very large supply of pure blood. Without this, it is torpid and inactive. To cause the blood to flow to any particular part, it must be exercised. The lumberman, when in the forest in extreme cold weather, stamps his feet violently upon the ground, or beats them against a log, and whips Ms hands around Ms body, and in this way makes them red and warm with a new supply of blood. The stomach, when it has received a supply of food, begins earnestly to turn it over; and by this exercise, and the stimulus which the food supplies, it invites large quantities of blood to its vessels, and thus increases its power to work. But just in proportion that it draws the vital current to itself, and augments its own vital force, it diminishes the blood in other organs, and for the time being, unfits them for work. The same may be said of the brain and all other working organs. From this it follows that only one organ, or set of organs, can work effectively at the same time, and that it is improper to put the brain to hard work immediately after a full meal, because the stomach then wants the blood to enable it to digest the food; and ff the blood be called off to the brain, digestion will stop. Nor should the stomach be loaded with food directly after long and hard thinking; for the brain will yield up the blood to it only after its own excitement has had time to subside.
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copyright 2005, J. Crow Company, New Ipswich NH 03071