Managing high blood pressure


  • Seniors
  • Saturday, 14 Mar 2015

The risk of suffering from the complications of hypertension is increased if you are overweight. Photo: AFP

Understand what high blood pressure is so that you can take steps to effectively control the condition.

According to Great Eastern Life’s Live Great portal, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition in which there is a higher than normal force (pressure) on the walls of the arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood) when blood flows through them each time the heart pumps.

Over the long term, the continually high pressure on the artery walls can damage many organs.

What is blood pressure?

To understand what blood pressure is, think of your arteries as a flexible water hose. When you turn on the tap, water gushes through it. In the human body, blood flows through the arteries, just like water does through a hose. As the water flows, it pushes against the sides of the hose. Blood pressure is the force blood makes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through them.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers: systolic and diastolic.

The top number is the systolic pressure, while the bottom one is the diastolic pressure.

The systolic pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, while the diastolic pressure reflects pressure between heartbeats.

Someone with a systolic reading of 120mmHg and a diastolic reading of 80mmHg has a blood pressure of 120/80 – well within the healthy range.

Blood pressure changes throughout the day, and is lowest when you are asleep or inactive, and increases when you are awake and active.

Blood pressure can also rise when you have been exercising or are excited or anxious.

If your blood pressure reading is elevated even without normal triggers, you could have high blood pressure (hypertension) and will be at risk of health problems.

The dangers of high blood pressure

High blood pressure raises the risk of atherosclerosis, a term used to describe the hardening and narrowing of arteries. Uncontrolled or untreated hypertension increases the risk of the following health problems:

• Coronary heart disease

• Heart failure/heart attack

• Stroke

• Narrowing of the blood vessels in the arms and legs (peripheral artery disease)

• Kidney failure

There are no clear symptoms of high blood pressure. Regular medical checkups are important so that any early signs of hypertension can be treated early.

The risk of suffering from the complications of hypertension is increased if you:

• Smoke

• Are overweight (BMI of 23 and above)

• Have a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol

• Are sedentary and do not exercise regularly

• Have a family history of high blood pressure

• Suffer from chronic stress

• Have kidney problems

• Suffer from diabetes

• Have high blood cholesterol

How is high blood pressure treated?

Treatment for high blood pressure is lifelong. After diagnosis, your doctor will put you on a medication regime that aims to control your blood pressure so that it does not get worse.

You may also be prescribed with medications to lower your risk of heart disease.

Sticking to your medication regime is very important. Do not stop taking your medicine or change your dosage unless your doctor advises you to do so.

You may be asked to monitor your blood pressure regularly at home with an electronic BP device. This can help you monitor your blood pressure closely.

Lifestyle changes are essential to manage hypertension. These include:

• If you smoke, quit. Smoking worsens hypertension and increases the risk of many serious diseases.

• Managing your weight and losing weight if you are overweight.

• Adopting an active lifestyle with regular exercise.

• Modifying your diet to include more wholegrains, fruits and vegetables.

• Reducing your intake of saturated fat, sodium, alcohol and caffeine.

• Managing your stress levels.

The Live Great Guides, which are available on Great Eastern Life’s corporate website greateasternlife.com, contains other useful information about managing blood pressure. You can also visit the Live Great Portal to get other healthy living tips, articles and recipes, as well as wellness tools to conduct simple health risk assessments, obtain information on Live Great events such as health and wellness talks, seminars and workshops and Live Great partners’ promotions throughout the year.

You can find out more about Great Eastern Life’s activities and events through its Facebook page.

Next month, Great Eastern Life will be the exclusive event partner with The Star in the FitForLife Fair (previously known as The Star Health Fair). The theme for this year’s fair is “Get Fit. Live Great!”, and it aims to inspire Malaysians to lead a healthy lifestyle and adopt a holistic approach to health that includes physical and mental fitness, financial health and general happiness.

According to Great Eastern Life, this is a strategic partnership in line with the company’s Live Great Programme introduced in April 2012 as the first integrated health and wellness programme by an insurance company in the region, designed to assist its customers in achieving their health goals.

■ FitForLife 2015 will be held in Halls 1-3, Mid Valley Exhibition Centre from April 10-12. Admission is free. For details, call 03-7967 1388 ext 1243/1475 or visit facebook.com/starhealthfair.

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Managing high blood pressure

   

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