Hypertension is one the commonest diseases in the region, yet it is not understood very well. It is one of the most talked about health topics in this region, yet not much of what is circulated about it by the masses is accurate.

Our Resident MD, Dr.Yasmin Abdulghafour gives you the lowdown about high blood pressure.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is defined as having repeatedly high blood pressure measurements (140/90).There are lots of risk factors associated with hypertension, most commonly of which are:

Age: all those that are above 30 years of age are prone for hypertension

Overweight & obesity: if your body mass index is more than 25, watch out.

Physical inactivity: sedentary lifestyle predisposes to high blood pressure.

Smoking: the more you smoke, the more your risk will be.

Family history: you cannot do anything about genetics, if you have a first degree relative with hypertension, then you must be careful.

You can’t do anything about your age or family history, but you definitely can change your lifestyle into an an active one, control your weight and stop smoking!

Why high blood pressure should be treated?

High blood pressure damages arteries over time leading to many debilitating complications like heart failure. If it is associated with diabetes and high cholesterol, the end result will be damaged and blocked blood vessels in all the major organs, like heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. So once the diagnosis of hypertension is made, it has to be treated by a total change of lifestyle in terms of diet, smoking, and physical activity. If that alone is not enough, drugs must be started. There are lots of medications that can be used, the selection is made according to the patient’s age, other diseases that he/she might have, and many other factors that I won’t mention here.

During my work in my clinic I come across all kinds of patients, here are some the myths they believe about hypertension. I chose these because they are common thought among patients, and because the effect of believing them could be disastrous.

1- My blood pressure can’t be high, I don’t feel anything.

High blood pressure does not cause any symptom, that’s why it is called the silent killer. It is only discovered accidently or on routine medical examination. That’s why it is recommended that every person aged 30 and above check his/her blood pressure once every year.

2- I have a headache; my blood pressure must be high.

Blood pressure, even if high cannot be felt. What happens if you have pain anywhere in your body, your blood pressure could slightly be raised, but not vice versa.

3- Now that I took the treatment for some time, and my blood pressure is back to normal, I want to stop the medication.

Your blood pressure is controlled only because you are taking the treatment, once you stop it, it will rise again. It is not until someone makes a dramatic lifestyle change and maintains it over a long period of time, that we think of lowering the treatment and consider stopping it.

4- I am taking the treatment, but I need to check my blood pressure everyday to make sure it’s not high.

Blood pressure fluctuates during the day, which is normal even in those who are not hypertensive. After diagnosis, you may need to check your blood pressure once a week or once every two weeks. After your blood pressure is stabilized it is recommended to check it once every 3-6 months.

5- The lower reading of the blood pressure (diastolic) is more important than the upper reading (systolic).

Both readings are equally important. In fact there is an entity of hypertension called systolic hypertension, where the upper (systolic) reading is constantly high while the lower (diastolic) is normal.

6- I don’t want this treatment, my friend is taking another drug, and she/he says it’s stronger, I want that one.

There are different kinds of medications for hypertension. The doctor takes into account the patient’s history, other co-morbidities, other treatments he/she is taking and other factors when choosing the proper drug. What works for your friend might not work or even be dangerous for you.

7- I felt that one tablet might make my blood pressure very low, so I’m thinking of taking only half the tablet.

As you know tablets contain the active drug and some additives to make it edible. Not all tablets are breakable. The ones that are breakable have the same amount of the drug on both sides. The ones that are unbreakle don’t. So if you break an unbreakable tablet you might take a half that does not contain a drug. Moreover, never change your dose without consulting your doctor first.

The world health organization attributes hypertension, as the leading cause of cardiovascular mortality. In other words: many people die because of complications related directly to hypertension. It is estimated that one billion adult have hypertension worldwide. The striking thing is that more than 50% of the hypertensive population are unaware of their condition. The medical, economic, and human costs of untreated and inadequately controlled high blood pressure are enormous.

What should you do?

Talk to your doctor, ask as many questions as you can. It is your right to have enough information about your illness. Search in a trusted magazine or website for information about common diseases in your community, you might have one without knowing! Last but not least, never trust someone’s gossip about a disease if it is not supported by evidence.

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