Saturday, May 8, 2021

Hypertension - the silent killer!


    On the last blog that my cousin Charmain and I collaborated on, we talked about the 3 "highs"- high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. On this blog, we will specifically discuss high blood pressure. 

What is High Blood Pressure?

    Blood pressure is a measurement that is taken at every doctor's visit. There are 2 numbers to the blood pressure reading, one over the other, normal is around 110/70. The upper number, also known as systolic pressure, is the pressure in the artery when the heart contracts or pumps blood. The lower number, diastolic pressure, is the pressure when the heart is relaxed. The measurement is usually taken with a cuff around the left arm while you are in a sitting position. Nowadays, most medical facilities use machine to measures blood pressure although some doctors may still listen for it with a stethoscope. Many external factors affect the reading such as how you sit, the size of the cuff, just being in the exam room and so on. As such, a single reading of high blood pressure in one setting may not be clinically significant.

What does it mean to have high blood pressure?

    Abnormal blood pressure is an indicator that something is wrong with the the blood vessels in our body. When the numbers are consistently higher than normal, that suggests that the wall of the blood vessels are starting to change and stiffen. It may also be a sign that there is something wrong with the kidneys, and occasionally the adrenal glands. The doctor will order blood tests, urine tests, occasionally some heart tests depending on each individual’s case and conditions, and the diagnosis of hypertension will be given accordingly. Once you are diagnosed with hypertension, the blood vessels have started to stiffen and become narrow, eventually damaging the vital organs: brain, heart and kidneys. 

What is hypertension?

    When the blood pressure is higher than 130/80, that is stage I hypertension. Therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) is the the treatment. At this stage, eating healthy, exercising and losing weight will be the most important and can actually prevent disease progression!  Stage II hypertension is when the blood pressure is over 140/90. At this point, medications will usually be prescribed to control the blood pressure and to protect the internal organs such as heart, brain and kidneys. Progressing onto stage II hypertension does not mean that you have failed to sufficiently alter your diet and exercise, as it is part of the aging and disease process. Diet and exercise is still very important, but medications will be needed as well to prevent the complications of hypertension.

What are the complications of hypertension? 
    Throughout this time with high blood pressure, stage I and stage II hypertension, there are usually no symptoms. Unlike what you might have seen in Korean dramas, there is usually no headache, no chest pain or discomfort of any kind. A lot of people feel normal walking around with hypertension! However, it is quietly damaging your body. We call hypertension the silent killer because hypertension itself is generally asymptomatic; unfortunately, once you have symptoms, it is already too late. It is the complications of hypertension that led to symptoms: chest pain from a heart attack, inability to move one side of the body from stroke, swelling and inability to breathe because of heart or kidney failure. 

    Some of the common complications of hypertension are:
  • Heart -     Heart attack, enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), weakened and enlarged blood vessel (aneurysm), heart failure
  • Brain -     Stroke, memory loss and even dementia
  • Kidneys - Kidney damage and eventually kidney failure
  • Eyes -      Retinopathy from bleeding into the back of the eye causing blurred vision and sometimes loss of vision

       Most of these complications of hypertension may not be fatal, but they lead to long term disability.

What can we do?

    This is where your hard work can pay off. Taking care of your body helps not just yourself, but your family members too! Nobody wants to be a burden on their family! Besides TLC, which my cousin Charmain will elaborate on, it is very important to take medications as prescribed and to follow up regularly with your doctor. Medications do not just bring down the blood pressure numbers, the newer classes of anti-hypertensives can specifically protect the kidneys and heart! Sometimes, we use these medications on patients who do not have hypertension, just for the sole purpose of protecting the heart and kidneys. Work with your doctor to find the best medication for you. 

    Immediate things you can do:
  • Eat less sodium or salt. Definitely, do not use table salt. 
  • Eat more fresh food, especially celery, cucumber, green apple, bitter melon. 
  • Eat less processed food.  
  • Walk at least 30 minutes daily, better if you can exercise more
  • Drink less caffeine! This one is the hard one for me! 
  • Stop smoking. 
  • Drink less alcohol. 
  • Reduce your stress, which is easier said than done. Try meditation and remember to love yourself! 
  • Buy a blood pressure monitor, about US $30 at Costco, and monitor yourself. 
    Controlling your blood pressure can slow down the disease process. To emphasize one more time, taking your medications regularly, together with dieting and exercising, will reduce your risks for heart attack, stroke and kidney failure!
    Hopefully, this gives you a general idea of what hypertension is. We will be happy to answer any questions. If you find this helpful, please follow us and read our next blogs on high cholesterol and high blood sugar!


1 comment:

  1. I am retired Med technologist and I always try to calm down and relax whenever I came across the problems
    I wish I would like Dr Wu young and elegant and happy