Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is a silent killer. With little or no immediate symptoms, one can have it for years without knowing it. It can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of your body – triggering strokes and heart attacks, and it may even take your life away.
By Dr. Alvin Neo
Resident Physician at Northeast Medical Group MBBS (Hons), M.Med (Int Med), MRCP (UK)
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common condition whereby abnormally high pressure of the blood within your artery walls may eventually cause health problems such as heart disease and stroke. It is estimated that 20-25% of Singaporean residents aged 30 to 69 have hypertension.
The force at which your heart pumps bloods out as well as the amount of resistance to blood flow within the arterial walls determines your blood pressure. When your doctor or healthcare professional measures your blood pressure, it will include both the systolic and diastolic readings.
Systolic: The pressure at which the heart pumps blood around the body
Diastolic: The pressure within arteries as the heart relaxes and refills with blood
Hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure is more than 140/90mmHg for people aged below 60 or more than 150/90mmHg for people aged above 60.
Causes & Risk Factors
There is rarely an identifiable cause for high blood pressure. However, there are a number of risk factors which may increase your chances of developing the condition. These include increasing age; a family history of high blood pressure; a high-fat, high-sodium diet; lack of exercise; obesity; smoking; excessive alcohol consumption and stress.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Most people with high blood pressure show no signs or symptoms. However, even without experiencing any symptoms, the constant high pressure of blood against the arterial walls in your body can continue to cause damage and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
When blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels, some people may experience symptoms such as headaches, visual blurring, chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness. These symptoms are however non-specific and may be due to many other conditions other than hypertension.
Damage from Hypertension
- Blood vessel damage
- Heart attack & Heart Failure
- Kidney failure
Knowing Your Health
Regular hypertension screening
Blood pressure will need to be measured several times on several occasions using a sphygmomanometer. Your doctor may request for you to rest for a few minutes prior to retaking your blood pressure or arrange for a separate visit to repeat your blood pressure measurement should it be abnormal.
You should check your blood pressure every 6 to 12 months, as hypertension is usually asymptomatic. Your doctor may also order tests such as blood tests, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, urine testing or kidney ultrasound when necessary.
Monitoring Your Health
Taking and recording your blood pressure
It is important to note that factors such as stress, smoking, exercise, caffeine intake as well as certain drugs may cause brief elevations of blood pressure.
Prior to your blood pressure being taken, you should rest for at least five minutes. You should also remain calm as much as possible.
uCare hypertension monitoring program
An alternative to visiting the doctor multiple times for follow up of hypertension is to adopt blood pressure monitoring at home. This has been made more convenient with the uCare Hypertension Care Program which is now available at all Northeast Medical Group Clinics.
Fitbit devices or iHealth blood pressure monitors can be coupled to the uCare.io in iOS and android mobile app. Blood pressure and heart rate readings will then be remotely transmitted to a centralised server whereby a doctor will monitor the values recorded.
The personalised hypertension monitoring care program is customised based on each individual’s health condition and will be continuously monitored by medical professionals on a daily basis from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm. This application also allows sharing of readings with family members, friends and caregivers to facilitate a social support of network.
uCare hypertension care program will be available at all Northeast Medical Group clinics. Please call for enquiry.
Nursing Your Health
Treating High Blood Pressure
Slightly High Blood Pressure
Lower your blood pressure by making simple lifestyle changes. Improve your diet and exercise regularly.
Moderately High Blood Pressure
You may be prescribed medication and advised about changing your lifestyle.
Very High Blood Pressure
If your blood pressure is noted to be very high, you should visit a doctor who will be able to advise accordingly.
As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. You can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy, balanced diet
Consume foods low in salt (sodium) and potassium. Use herbs and spices instead of salt and artificial flavourings.
Maintaining a healthy BMI
Keep your BMI below 23kg/m2 but no less than 18.5kg/m2.
Aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes every week
Abstain from smoking
Limiting alcohol intake
Source: Prime Magazine Jun - Jul 2017 Issue. Reproduced with permission.
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