Know Your Numbers, Beat Hypertension

Manila Bulletin, May 22, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Know Your Numbers, Beat Hypertension


MANILA, Philippines -- Know your numbers - systolic, diastolic, and blood sugar levels - as these, depending on how controlled or out-of-control they are, are indicatory of the current state of your health.

"A healthy lifestyle includes eating a low-fat, low-salt diet rich in vegetables and fruits, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining optimal weight, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake," said Health Secretary Enrique Ona.

"This year's World Hypertension Day theme, 'Know your numbers and target your blood pressure,' is very relevant in light of the alarming number of Filipinos with hypertension," said Philippine Society of Hypertension (PSH)president Dr. Dante Morales.

"Uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes can cause serious complications such as kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke. So prevention and appropriate management of both conditions are critical," stressed Philippine Heart Association (PHA) president Dr. Eleanor Lopez.

"Results of a study conducted by the PHA on blood pressure control in the Philippines showed that BP control rate is only 20 percent. Eight out of 10 hypertensive Filipinos do not have their condition under control. It is imperative to determine the reasons for these alarming statistics so that we can create a program to address this public health concern," urged Dr. Eugene Reyes, PHA Scientific chair.

"Hypertension and diabetes are closely linked, and many patients with diabetes develop hypertension. Filipinos must take a more proactive role in caring for their health by going for regular blood pressure monitoring and periodic blood sugar testing, particularly for individuals at high risk for diabetes," explained Dr. Leilani Mercado-Asis.

Dr. Benjamin Balmores, Jr. agrees. "Early detection of hypertension and diabetes is crucial because it enables initiation of appropriate treatment preventing serious complications."

Based on a recent National Nutrition and Health Survey, 17.2 percent of the adult population in the country - roughly 7.7 million Filipinos - have hypertension. The Philippine Heart Association reports that only 12 percent are adequately controlled. This means that around 6.8 million people are "walking time bombs" because anytime, they can succumb to fatal complications.

"Hypertension per se does not kill, but the complications are the ones that disable and kill a person with hypertension," said Dr. Rafael Castillo, a cardiologist at the Manila Doctors' Hospital.

Health authorities consider hypertension a stubborn problem because it involves so many of the body's interlocking systems, and lying at the center of it all is the heart. Blood travels through our body by flowing through arteries, carrying oxygen-rich blood from our heart to other tissues and organs. Once oxygen is delivered to our tissues and organs, oxygen-poor blood travels back to our heart through our veins. Our heart then pumps this blood into our lungs, where it is replenished with oxygen. After returning to our heart, the blood is pumped out into our arteries again.

Blood pressure (BP) is the force exerted by blood against artery walls as it circulates through our body. Normally, people have certain standards of BP, with a reading of 140/90 considered the median or average. The upper number, called the systolic, refers to the pumping capability of the heart, while the lower number, termed the diastolic, refers to the pressure exerted by the blood vessels all over the body.

A person is said to be hypertensive if he or she has persistent elevations of BP: a systolic blood pressure greater than 140 mm Hg (millimeters mercury) or a diastolic blood pressure of more than 90 mm Hg.

An individual has a mild hypertension if the systolic BP is between 140 to 159 mm Hg or the diastolic BP is between 90 to 99 mm Hg. When the systolic BP is higher than 160 mm Hg or a diastolic BP is greater than 100 mm Hg, a person is said to have a moderate to severe hypertension.

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