High blood pressure poses a higher risk to your health than smoking, high blood sugar and high body mass index, according to the 2017 Global Burden Disease Study. Almost 1 in 3 (29.5%) of Singapore Indians in fact suffer from high blood pressure, a statistic that we must treat with some concern.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure aka hypertension is a condition where blood is pumped around the body at a higher pressure. Doctors recognise it as a silent killer because it may not produce any symptoms. Having high blood pressure for a prolonged period can damage blood vessels and increase your risks for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Our vascular system – the heart and blood vessels – undergo changes as we age. With time, the arteries become less elastic, and stiffen, contributing to increased blood pressure. However, there are other factors at work too.
These include genetics, diet, medical conditions and lifestyle.
Some of these factors we can’t control. Some, we can. In life, we have to make the most of the cards we are dealt with.
Complications due to high blood pressure
Prolonged high blood pressure can contribute to a whole host of complications, including some life-threatening ones:
- Heart attack
- Kidney disease
- Atherosclerosis/plaque build up in the arteries
- Erectile dysfunction
8 tips to prevention and management
- Exercise regularly: four to five times a week, 150 minutes in total. Regular exercise has been found to reduce blood pressure by between 4 and 9 mm Hg. Some recommended exercises are: walking, jogging, cycling and swimming. Strength training exercises, at least two days a week is also recommended. However do talk to your doctor if you have any existing medical condition before embarking on exercise programmes, especially if you are above 45.
- Eat healthy: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products as well as less saturated fat, cholesterol and processed foods can help to lower blood pressure. Reduce sodium in your diet – as it elevates blood pressure. On the other hand, the mineral potassium has been known to counteract the effects of sodium. Potassium in its natural form – from fruits and vegetables – rather than from supplements are recommended.
- Control weight and belly fat: blood pressure tends to increase when your weight increases. Being overweight also contributes to sleep apnoea, which can further increase blood pressure. Studies have also demonstrated a link between increased belly fat and higher blood pressure.
- Cut back on alcohol: drink moderately (not more than 1 pint of beer or 1 glass of wine). Interestingly, blood pressure does go down when you drink moderately, but this positive effect is lost when you drink too much. In addition, alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of medications including those prescribed for blood pressure.
- Quit smoking: the nicotine in cigarettes raises blood pressure, narrows the arteries, hardens their walls, and increases the chances for blood clots. Besides setting up you for high blood pressure, it also stresses the heart increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- Limit caffeine: Many of us have become dependent on that morning cup of coffee. While the effects of coffee have long been debated, it has been observed to raise blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg.
- Reduce stress: this is challenging, given our busy and demanding work lives. To control work stress know your limits and don’t take on more work than you can handle. Sometimes, stress is all in the mind – the mere recognition that things are not worth getting worked up over, at the expense of your health, can have a positive effect. Things you can do to control stress include setting aside time to engage in relaxing activities, avoiding stress triggers such as early morning traffic and meditation. Cultivating kindness and compassion towards other people can also help to reduce blood pressure, not only for ourselves but others as well.
- Monitor your blood pressure: if you have been diagnosed for high blood pressure, or if you are above 45, it may be worthwhile for you to keep a blood pressure monitor at home. Generally, doctors recommend checking your blood pressure at least once a day. Consult your doctor if your blood pressure goes to elevated levels. Be sure to seek emergency help if our blood pressure goes to dangerous levels (more than 180/120 mm Hg).
Singapore Indians have a significantly higher propensity to develop type 2 diabetes than the majority. How serious is type 2 diabetes and can it be prevented or managed?
Comment on this Topic