Let’s all admit that as we age, one of the most common illnesses that most of us acquire is Hypertension. As I researched about it, I’ve found out that there’s not much information about Hypertension in the Philippines. And then it’s worrisome to know that  according to World Health Organization (WHO), by 2020, annual deaths resulting from heart disease and stroke could go as high as 20 million. In fact, these are the top two leading causes of death in the Philippines.

What is Hypertension

Hypertension is the medical term for high Blood pressure. Blood Pressure or commonly called BP is the amount of force (pressure) that blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels as it passes through them. 

As blood is pumped from your heart into your vessels, enough pressure is created to send it to all other parts of your body.

To measure your blood pressure, a fabric cuff is wrapped around your arm and then slightly inflated. The blood pressure shows up on a gauge attached to the cuff. The healthcare provider reads the numbers from the gauge as air is released from the cuff. This device that reads blood pressure is called a sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure can also be measured with a blood pressure machine.

Diagnosing Hypertension

Diagnosis for hypertension is usually done by taking several readings of your blood pressure. Your blood pressure will be monitored and taken twice a day for a week. If the average blood pressure is more than 140/90, your physician will consider hypertension. Final diagnosis is done when blood tests confirm the physician’s initial diagnosis. 

With that please note that an initial blood pressure reading that is more than 140/90 doesn’t necessarily mean that you have hypertension. Your healthcare provider should monitor your blood pressure for proper diagnosis. 

Symptoms of Hypertension

Hypertension was called “the silent killer” because it usually do not present symptoms until on it’s late or on it’s advance stage. That is why it’s important to be aware of the symptoms that might lead to hypertension especially for those people who are high risk. 

You’re in a high risk of acquiring hypertension when it runs in your family, you do not practice proper diet, age, when you’re stressed, etc. 
The most common symptoms for high blood pressure are:
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • nausea and vomiting
  • chest pain and shortness of breath  (SOB)
Most of these symptoms are easily shrugged off and one does not seek proper medical attention until the damage is at organ level which poses more danger because it means that hypertension is already chronic- meaning long term and on-going.
These are the following types of organ damage that are commonly seen in chronic high blood pressure:
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Kidney failure
  • Eye damage with progressive vision loss
  • Peripheral arterial disease causing leg pain with walking (claudication)
  • Outpouchings of the aorta, called aneurysms
About 1% of people with high blood pressure do not seek medical care until the high blood pressure is very severe, a condition known as malignant hypertension.
  • In malignant hypertension, the diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) often exceeds 140 mm Hg.
  • Malignant hypertension may be associated with headache, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, and stroke like symptoms
  • Malignant hypertension requires emergency intervention and lowering of blood pressure to prevent brain hemorrhage or stroke (source: emedicinehealth)

I hope these lists of symptoms would help you. Like my friend’s Dad who would have never found out he had hypertension if not for a forced annual check-up. 
A Personal Note from A Hypertensive Dad 

In line with the quest to be enlightened with Hypertension, I asked my good friend a chance to interview her Dad who has hypertension for years. 
Tito Fernando Macabuag, 58, a NGO employee and has been taking medications for hypertension for 15 years. 

Tito Fernando with his family

Tito Fernando was still working for San Miguel Corp when he found out about his medical condition. It was during one of their annual physical exams that he was diagnosed to have Hypertension. Taking the condition very seriously, he asked the company Cardiologist on ways to deal with his condition and made sure he followed the Cardiologist’s advice. From that point, he realized that he needed to change his lifestyle if he wanted to combat Hypertension, and what a huge change it was! He opted for an early retirement (at age 53) from his lucrative job in the corporate world (see, too much free beer is bad!). He also stopped smoking and started jogging everyday. The change was a big step but his family and friends were there to support him. In terms of prescribed medications, Tito Fernando was given Lozartan (an ace inhibitor) but after five years, Aspirin (which makes his blood thinner) was added on the list. He takes his medications daily. Unlike most people, Tito Fernando stayed away from herbal medicines because his Cardiologist was against it. 

When asked what advice he would give to people suffering from the same condition as his, he gingerly replied “It’s never too late to change your lifestyle.” Which is true, it’s really up to us to take responsibility once an illness hits us. It’s our choice if we want to fall prey on the illness and succumb to it, or do whatever it takes to overcome and finally manage it. Today, Tito Fernando is working as an NGO employee and is a very happy family man. He’s more aware of what he’s eating and how much he’s drinking. He has come to terms with his condition and after 15 years of having it, he knows how to manage and deal with it. Discipline and awareness is key, he said. 

“The general population, the masses do not know much about hypertension. They don’t see it as a problem. A healthy lifestyle is not a priority because people are more concerned about making both ends meet. People are more concerned about putting food in the table, worrying about their jobs. Thus healthy lifestyle is not a priority or learning about hypertension” 

I have to agree with Tito Fernando that the general Filipinos are not well informed about Hypertension amidst the efforts of the Philippine Heart Association to spread awareness through their website, Pinoy Highblood
National Nutrition and Health Survey found that seven million Filipinos suffer from hypertension. The Department of Health data showed that only 13.6% of hypertensives are aware of their condition since hypertension causes minimal or no symptoms at all.

Hypertension prevention is very simple yet surprisingly difficult to go by. It’s to practice a healthy lifestyle: eat in moderation, exercise regularly, stop smoking, reduce your stress levels and practice relaxation of mind, body and spirit. 

I then suggest that a proper medical attention should be given to people who are experiencing symptoms as that of hypertension. Let’s all be vigilant and avoid being a prey to this silent killer, Hypertension.