Living Healthily With Hypertension (Part 1)

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High blood pressure (hypertension) above certain thresholds is not consistent with life, similar to a balloon that bursts when pushed hard above pressures it is not used to. Nature, by extension, detests sudden and long-term pressure rises.

Hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure in the blood vessels, especially the arteries (pipelines that carry blood from the heart to organs), is elevated. Hypertension (HPT) is a long-aged medical condition that has transcended generation; popular amongst folks of African descent. Hypertension is not a death sentence. People have lived and crossed 80 years after being diagnosed of hypertension many years ago; as much as living 40-50years with hypertension because they took their medication and/or lifestyle modification advice seriously. Hypertension is never a death sentence. People die before they reach the age of 50 because they were diagnosed late, frequently with complications, and did not follow the medication regimen faithfully. Long ago, hypertension was believed to be a disease of the elderly, but this belief is increasingly obsolete.

Hypertension can affect both young and old people. Do not be fooled. Today, we’ll look at some common myths and misconception about hypertension, as well as some causes and risk factors.

How hypertension comes about

A child’s heart pumps blood to the fingertips at a lower pressure than an adult heart pumping blood to the same distance. Furthermore, high-fat food consumption from childhood to adulthood predisposes to the formation of fatty “clots” known as atherosclerosis, which gradually clogs blood vessels. You’ll agree with me that the pump will have to work harder to overcome the narrowing caused by the clot by increasing friction. This explains why hypertension is commoner among adults and more so the reason why adults (>30yrs) should limit their fatty food intake.

There 2 types of hypertension. A hypertension with an identifiable correctable underlying cause termed secondary hypertension. They are mainly endocrine disorders eg. thyroid disease & cushing’s syndrome etc. The other form of hypertension is primary hypertension, which has no known cause but is linked to risk factors that increase the likelihood of hypertension in a person if the risk factor is found to be present. The risk factors are either modifiable (factors that can be controlled) or non-modifiable (risk factors you can barely do anything about them). Modifiable: lack of exercise & sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol, eating fatty foods (cheese, junk foods), eating salty foods(especially “koobi” & “momoni”), diabetes, dyslipidemia etc. Non-modifiable: being a male, African decent, age>40yrs, family history of hypertension, pre-eclampsia etc.

Simply put, if you have a family history of hypertension, you can’t go to your favorite fast food joint with your buddy who doesn’t have a family history of hypertension; not that your friend is resistant to hypertension, but you are at a higher risk. You don’t have the luxury of smoking and drinking alcohol. Your life is much more important.

Signs and symptoms

Hypertension is a symptomless disease. When symptoms appear, there’s something sinister going on. Look out for these symptoms; for the purposes of this write-up, I want to name these symptoms red flags. Puffiness (swollen) face in the morning, swollen feet, foamy urine, chest pain, hearing heart beat when at rest (palpitation), recurrent headaches, seizures etc. These red flags should prompt the bearer to seek for medical attention. These red flags appear insidiously and may even resolve spontaneously. The temporary resolution of these symptoms doesn’t mean that the disease process has stopped

Misconceptions.

I don’t want to know my blood pressure (BP) because ignorance is bliss; what you don’t know will not kill you”. “When I don’t go to have my blood pressure (BP) checked regularly, doctor will not slap my face with the breaking news of being hypertensive and put me on expensive long-term medications that are for life”. I am sure you are smiling as you’re reading these statements because either you’ve made such statements before or have heard it from another person. These quotes do not apply here.

To begin with, ignorance is not bliss since late-stage hypertension has negative consequences. When detected early, however, it can be treated without the use of antihypertensive medications, instead relying on lifestyle changes that has been discussed above. Furthermore, many people with hypertension are unaware that they have it, and when they do, they arrive at the hospital late, with almost nothing that can be done to help them. When it comes to hypertension, the accuracy of the diagnosis is crucial. You should be aware of the current blood pressure level. Go have your BP checked today.

Secondly, what you don’t know will not kill you. Ironically, what you don’t know may kill you. Hypertension on its own does not kill but the effect on vital organs (like kidney, heart and the brain) is what carries the mortality dagger. This is the most common cause of premature death in worldwide according to World Health Organization (WHO); 1 in 4men and 1 in 5women. With a world population of 7.9, 1.13 billion people have hypertension; that is 1 in 8persons have hypertension approximately. The irreparable damages of hypertension (post-complication aftermaths) can be checked through regular check-ups and serial BP, lifestyle modifications and medication compliance. In Africa and more so Ghana, hypertension features as a risk for stroke, kidney disease and heart diseases.

“I won’t go for routine checkups to be diagnosed with hypertension by a health professional because of the anxiety and debilitating uncertainty that comes with being told you’re hypertensive”; presumably because you had family, parents, or friends who declined quickly after being told they were hypertensive. In actual fact, he/she probably had a poorly controlled BP or was in denial of being hypertensive so wasn’t drug compliant and/or didn’t stop smoking and follow lifestyle modifications strategies stipulated by the health professional leading to their death. HYPERTENSION IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE. PEOPLE HAVE LIVED SUCCESSFULLY WITH IT TILL TODAY because they understand their condition and are cooperative with the drug regimen and proposed lifestyle modifications by the healthcare provider.

I will NOT go to the hospital on a regular basis to have my blood pressure taken and if I am diagnosed as hypertensive, the doctor will place me on costly long-term antihypertensive drugs. In addition, I am not a fan of pharmaceuticals. Not all high blood pressure need drugs some need only smoking cessation, diet change and other lifestyle modifications. Furthermore, some of the antihypertensive drugs are covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

Hope you learnt something today. Catch health helper next week for an episode