High blood pressure that can touch off heart attack or stroke remains a menace looming over the populace. Department of Health (DOH) records show that over 276Filipinos die of heart disease daily and at least one Filipino suffers from stroke every nine minutes, both among the top leading causes of death in the Philippines.
Hypertension has remained, per World Health Organization (WHO) records, as the biggest single risk factor for deaths worldwide, causing seven million deaths every year while 1.5 billion people suffer from its complications—HBP touches off arteriosclerosis or the hardening of blood vessels that, in turn, can trigger (1)aneurysm, often fatal; (2) heart failure; (3) dementia; (4) kidney failure; (5)impaired vision; (6) sexual dysfunction; (7) complications in pregnancy; (8)leg cramps; (9) sleep problems; and (10) osteoporosis or bone loss. In the Philippines, nearly 30% or three of every 10 Filipinos are hypertensive, the numbers are rising despite available treatment—25% of those afflicted do not take medication, while 75% follow a strict drug regimen.
Apart from the physician, there is one’s family to turn to in hypertension management. “The family represents, for the majority of people, an important source of support and security, and permits exchanges of love, affection, respect and values. The family organization and its interactions directly influence the success of the hypertension treatment,” cites a 2005 study conducted in Brazil.
Coping with hypertension involves the entire family as caregiver to help the afflicted member keep a healthy weight, engage in regular exercise, take hypertension medications, reduce the stress in their lives, quit smoking, and limit intake of salt— salt and sodium compounds hide in cheese, bakery and snack products, and highly processed food items like canned goods and cured meats—alcohol, and fats.
Admittedly, hypertension is a self-inflicted malady that stems from an unhealthy lifestyle. High blood pressure isn’t contagious, but caring for a family member with HBP might touch off a healthy way of life, particularly in greater intake of fruits, greens, whole grains, fish, and fresh produce. A shift in healthy food fare at the dinner table can be an adventure in trimming excess body weight.
Stress management is a family matter. This means saying ‘no’ to stressful tasks, release of negative thoughts, upkeep of harmonious relationships within the family circle, and nurturing patience and optimism—this is a most welcome contagion within the family, among kith and kin.
Light, but regular physical activity need not be confined to family vacations that can eat up assize able chunk of the family budget. A 30-minute saunter in the yard, puttering about the garden, a romp with the family dog, taking walks together in the park, even the deep breathing drills in the soft martial arts like aikido, qigong, and taichichuan – and these skills can be helpful in maintaining a calm mind and disposition that, in turn, can keep a patient’s blood pressure on an even keel.
Remember: a sedentary way of life is a killer. Move out of the couch, off the easy chair and engage in fun in the sun. The family members will be there to remind one on medication for HBP to take their pills consistently. Skipping medications can be dangerous—and there will always be one supportive family member to remind the hypertensive of such danger.
– Dong Ampil-Delos Reyes, Medical Observer