What is hypertension?
Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension is a health condition whereby the blood pressure is pumped around your body at high pressure.
At least 1 in 4 Singaporeans aged 30-69 and more than half of Singaporeans aged 60-70 suffer from this disease.
If left untreated, or without proper management, hypertension can gradually cause significant damage to your body. Coupled with the fact that hypertension rarely shows any symptoms, your heart could be at risk of serious damage long before you even realize it.
What causes hypertension?
There are two types of hypertension:
Primary hypertension, also known as essential hypertension, currently accounts for nearly 95% of all high blood pressure cases. It usually develops gradually.
While the exact cause of primary hypertension is unknown, it’s generally believed that it can be triggered by a combination of hereditary and lifestyle-related risk factors such as:
- Age: With age, your arteries may stiffen and narrow because of the build-up of plaque over the years. This can potentially cause your heart to strain while pumping blood, eventually leading to the development of hypertension.
- Family history: Research has shown that having a family member with hypertension before the age of 60 makes it highly likely for you to develop the condition because of genetics.
- Underlying health conditions: Underlying health issues such as high cholesterol and diabetes can potentially exacerbate your risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Individuals who are physically inactive tend to have a higher heart rate compared to those who are physically active. This implies that their heat tends to work fairly hard, leading to an increased risk of developing hypertension.
- Being overweight: The heavier you are, the more blood is needed to circulate oxygen and nutrients around your system, which puts lots of pressure on your blood vessels.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet high in sugar, fat, or sodium can potentially enhance your risk of high blood pressure.
- Stress: Increased levels of stress can potentially increase your blood pressure. Stress is also likely to result in unhealthy lifestyle choices that further promote the development of the condition, including excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, smoking, and consuming a diet full of excess salt, fats, and sugar.
Secondary hypertension accounts for the remaining 5% and usually occurs due to other health conditions such as;
- Kidney problems
- Sleep apnea
- Thyroid issues
- Congenital defects in blood vessels
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Some drugs and medications
What symptoms are associated with high blood pressure?
Being a silent killer, hypertension rarely exhibits any symptoms until substantial damage has been done to your heart and arteries. Most patients often die undiagnosed.
If symptoms do occur, they are likely to include headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains, nosebleeds, and blurred vision.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
Besides measuring your blood pressure, your doctor will conduct a detailed medical history and physical examination to assess for any symptoms or complications of organ damage.
Depending on the suspected secondary causes, your doctor may carry out more tests to screen for risk factors such as high cholesterol and diabetes. You can also use a home blood pressure monitor.
According to the Heart Foundation of Singapore, you should check your blood pressure regularly as soon as you hit 18. The frequency should increase to at least once a week if you are;
- 40 and above
- Diagnosed with hypertension, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, or cerebrovascular disease
How is high blood pressure treated in Singapore?
Usually, making a few crucial life adjustments will help manage and regulate high blood pressure. In this respect, your doctor may suggest that you make a couple of lifestyle changes, such as:
- Getting regular physical activity: Exercise guarantees numerous potential health benefits, including preventing the potential tightening of blood vessels and keeping your arteries flexible. If you have hypertension, getting active can help minimize your blood pressure readings significantly.
- Being mindful of what you eat: It has been proven that a balanced, healthy diet that’s low in sugar and fat, and high in whole grains, potassium, vegetables as well as low-fat dairy products can help reduce your blood pressure.
- Manage your weight: When you are overweight, your heart is forced to strain to pump blood to every part of your body. This, in turn, may increase your risk of having high blood pressure. Fortunately, making a few adjustments to your diet and increasing your physical activity can help you attain a healthy weight.
- Quitting smoking
- Minimizing your alcohol consumption: Regular heavy drinking can easily result in a sustained increase in blood pressure and can eventually lead to high blood pressure.
As hypertension is a chronic long term condition, blood pressure tablets are prescribed long term. It is very important that you adhere to your doctor’s advice and take your medications as prescribed to ensure their effectiveness.
These medications may range from diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin-2 receptor blockers. You can discuss further with your doctor on the need of blood pressure drugs and individual drug options suitability and side effects.
High blood pressure can result in health complications, including heart attack, coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Other possible complications may include sexual dysfunction, kidney failure, and loss of vision.