Taking care of your blood pressure

Normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure less than 120 over a diastolic pressure less than 80. | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF UNSPLASH/MOCKUP GRAPHICS

Around the world, it is reported that about one in four persons have high blood pressure or hypertension. It is important to know if you have high blood pressure because it increases the risk of developing cardiovascular complications, like heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure.

In the Philippines, about 2/3 of older persons have hypertension, and about half of them don’t even know they have high blood pressure. This is why hypertension has long been called the “silent killer.”  In most cases, there are no obvious symptoms to indicate that something is wrong. Hypertension rarely causes symptoms in the early stages, so many people go undiagnosed.


Blood pressure refers to the pressure of blood within the arteries, which are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other organs and parts of the body. It is defined by two measurements: systolic pressure (the “top” number), which is the pressure produced in the arteries when the heart contracts (at the time of a heart beat), and diastolic pressure (the “bottom” number) refers to the pressure in the arteries during relaxation of the heart between heart beats. Blood pressure is reported as the systolic pressure over diastolic pressure (for example, 120/70 or “120 over 70”).

Normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure less than 120 over a diastolic pressure less than 80. Blood pressure is said to be elevated when it is at 120 to 129 over less than 80.  It is called hypertension when systolic blood pressure is 130 and above and diastolic pressure is over 80.

It is important to keep in mind that everyone is at risk of developing hypertension — primary hypertension, specifically — as we get older, and there is no clear cause. Some people may develop secondary hypertension due to existing, underlying medical conditions like thyroid or kidney disease or even sleep apnea. It can also be a side effect of certain medications.

Factors that increase your risk for hypertension include:

•Being overweight or obese

•A family history of hypertension

•High-salt diet

•Heavy alcohol use                                                                                                                           

•Lack of physical activity


SMOKING can cause long term effects on your body. | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF unsplash/OBBY RH

•High cholesterol levels

Hypertension is often discovered through routine screening. Experts recommend that people 40 years and older without a history of hypertension have their blood pressure checked once a year; screening should happen more frequently in people with risk factors. For younger people without risk factors, screening every few years is a reasonable approach.

If your blood pressure is found to be elevated or high during in-office screening, you may be asked to confirm the results by checking your blood pressure yourself at home. This is because in many cases, a person’s blood pressure temporarily increases when it is taken by a doctor, nurse or other medical professional in the office setting. This is sometimes called “white coat hypertension.” Your health care provider will use the readings from your in-office blood pressure check and your at-home results to determine whether or not you have true hypertension.

Individually, the best way to protect yourself from hypertension is to be aware of one’s risk factors and making changes that matter. Engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors at all stages of life, regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status can help keep one’s risk of hypertension in check. Maintaining a healthy weight, a good diet, avoiding too much salt, increasing physical activity, reducing alcohol consumption and not smoking are all things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing hypertension.

If you are already diagnosed with hypertension, make sure you are monitored frequently. If you are unable to achieve goal blood pressure readings, changes need to be made. Discuss your options with your doctor to get treatment that is safe and right for you.

It is important to remember that hypertension can be controlled and even prevented. Doing so is far less costly, and far safer than having to deal with the complications when hypertension is missed or goes untreated.