KUWAIT: Hypertension, the official term for high blood pressure, was ranked amongst the top ten causes of deaths in Kuwait in 2011, contributing to about 3.18% of population deaths. Global deaths from hypertension, as reported by World Health Organization (WHO), were almost 13%. Dr Taha Al-Taha, Consultant, Internist and Cardiologist, Head of Internal Medicine at Dar Al Shifa Hospital noted, “There is a lot that can be done to understand and avoid complications from hypertension, but the trick with conquering this disease is knowing that it can be silent; in other words the signs only show when it is too late.”
Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measure of the force or pressure of blood against the walls of your arteries (blood vessels) as it circulates. “The best way to tackle it is in understanding how it works and keeping track of fluctuations through medical checkups and at home.” Blood pressure readings are usually given as two numbers. For example, 120 over 80 is written as 120/80 mmHg. One or both of these numbers can be too high. The top number is known as the systolic blood pressure and it occurs when your heart contracts and pumps blood. The bottom number is known as the diastolic blood pressure and occurs when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.
There are many factors that can affect blood pressure such as how much water and salt is in the body, obesity, stress or anxiousness, smoking and consumption of alcohol. Essentially, they fall under lifestyle choices that can be altered to avoid or improve levels of hypertension. Other contributing factors include the levels of different body hormones, and the condition of kidneys, nervous system, or blood vessels. Also, with age arteries tend to get stiffer which also has a direct effect on blood pressure levels.
How does hypertension affect health?
Overtime, the consistently elevated blood pressure will cause damage to the blood vessel walls and the organs that are supplied with blood. The damage done to the vessel walls can cause scarring that promotes the build-up of fatty plaque. This build-up can narrow and eventually block the arteries, as well as strain and eventually weaken the heart. Furthermore, very high blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst which results in a stroke. Some studies show that by taking action to lower high blood pressure, one can reduce the risks of heart attack by 25%, stroke by 40% and heart failure by 50%.
There are several lifestyle changes that can be made in order to prevent or treat high blood pressure. These include:
* Increasing your physical activity. It is recommended to engage in moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise for 30-60 minutes most days of the week. You should speak to your healthcare provider prior to starting any program or activity.
* Reducing the amount of sodium you eat. High levels of sodium can be found in many different sources such as junk food, canned meats and fish, and other processed foods. Be aware of the sodium content in your food and try to limit your use of additional salt in cooking and at the table.
* Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats.
* Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.
* Eliminating your consumption of nicotine products (such as cigarettes, cigars, or chewing tobacco) and reducing your exposure to second hand smoke.
* Avoiding or Limiting alcohol consumption.
* Managing your stress in healthy ways and spending time on things you enjoy.
* And always remember to take your prescribed medication as well as maintaining a cooperative doctor-patient relationship.
“Thus, prevention of hypertension complications lie in two simple steps: leading a healthy lifestyle, and checking on it periodically. The fact that it is a silent killer should be a constant reminder to not wait for symptoms and then take action,” concluded Dr. Taha.