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Health - Severe Hypertension

Stop the silent killer with small acts of exercise

Friday, May 25 2012


Hypertension is a silent killer. ???You don’t know about it until you get your first heart attack,??? said Dr. Francis Domingo, chief scientific officer of the pharmaceutical firm Novartis. Even just a few minutes of exercise a day ??“ along with lifestyle changes ??“ could do much to help keep it at bay. 

This was the message of an event on May 17 sponsored by the Philippine Society of Hypertension, the Department of Health, and the multinational pharmaceutical firm Novartis to mark the occasion of World Hypertension Day. (May is also National Hypertension Awareness Month in the Philippines.) The year’s theme was ???Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Blood Pressure.???

Hypertension is essentially a continual state of high blood pressure, whose causes are unknown but which research has shown could be prevented by reducing lifestyle factors that cause high risk of it. (Normal blood pressure would be below 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, which we usually encounter in ratio form.)

In his remarks, cardiologist Dr. Dante Morales, president of the PSH, said that both worldwide and in the Philippines, hypertension has become a bigger danger than ever. ???All over the world, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer,??? he said, referring to one of the two illnesses hypertension could cause. Strokes, which affect the flow of blood to the brain, are the second.

Cardiovascular disease is also the top cause of death in the Philippines, with stroke being the second as well, Dr. Morales added. It is also one of the top 10 diseases reported in clinics across the country.

One in every four adults - some 50 million people in the USA alone—have high blood pressure. But many people are unaware that they have the condition.

Untreated hypertension increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. These are the first and third commonest causes of death in the USA. Hypertension can also damage the kidneys and increase the risk of blindness and dementia. That is why hypertension is referred to as a “silent killer.”

Everyone is at risk from high blood pressure. However, the elderly tend to have a different hypertension profile compared with younger people, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

It is important to raise our collective consciousness of a particular type of high blood pressure known as isolated systolic hypertension (ISH).

Systolic pressure is the first number in a blood pressure reading and is an indicator of blood pressure when the heart contracts. The second number, the diastolic pressure, reflects pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.

The dangers of hypertension could not be underestimated. Dr. Isabelo Ongteco, Jr. of the Philippine Heart Association and the St. Luke’s Medical Center gave a detailed presentation of the dangers of uncontrolled hypertension. It affects several organs of the body, especially the heart and the brain. Ophthalmologists can also detect hypertension in the form of retinopathy (certain visible changes in the eye’s retina). For the brain, atherosclerosis (vessel clogging) and cerebral hemorrhage (due to blood vessel rupture) would be the main consequences. The heart could be enlarged as a result of hypertension as it takes more effort to pump blood - this ultimately leads to congestive heart failure.

Hypertension is a lifelong illness that has to be put under control, Dr. Ongteco emphasized, saying that patients with hypertension need to take maintenance drugs for the rest of their lives to keep their blood pressure in check.

For Dr. Morales, speaking for the Philippine Society of Hypertension, the chief key to preventing the risk of hypertension is twofold: healthy eating and exercise.

Healthy eating here would involve five portions of fruit and vegetables, and lower levels of salt. Exercise would mean strenuous exercise of at least 30 minutes a day most days a week. Also, hypertension can be controlled by stopping smoking and moderating alcohol consumption (to one unit). All these measures taken together would control the risk of illnesses arising from hypertension.

An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don’t even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. Sometimes people can keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully. This report details those changes, including a Special Section that features numerous ways to cut excess salt from your diet - a policy strongly recommended by new federal guidelines. This report also includes tips on how to use a home blood pressure monitor, as well as advice on choosing a drug treatment strategy based your age and any other existing medical issues you may have.

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Randall M. Zusman, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Director, Division of Hypertension, Massachusetts General Hospital. 48 pages. (2011)

Even Frances Pasilac-Cuevas of the Department of Health welcomed recent moves to restructure the ???sin tax??? system, which would significantly raise more revenue for improvements in public health and encourage people to stop smoking and drinking for economic reasons.

How soon could one start making sure hypertension is stopped in its tracks? While the risk rises with age, it is never too early. The effort is especially more needed for those of us whose families are historically prone to hypertension. Those who spoke at the event emphasized the role of parenting in encouraging heart-healthy behavior and diet.

And keeping on moving is one of the emphases the sponsoring groups are pushing this year. A competition was launched to encourage viral video users to create simple exercises that would meet the need to keep active while at work or in other sedentary environments.

It does not take much to keep the silent killer at bay. All it takes is a willingness to get moving, to eat right, and to make sure blood pressure is monitored on a frequent basis. And it can begin today.


KG, GMA News

Provided by Armina Hypertension Association

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