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Hypertension: The ‘silent killer’

Dr. Rahat Ghazanfar, Staff Physician, Preventive Medicine, Medical Subspecialties Institute from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi


Hypertension or high blood pressure often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not realize they have the condition until it reaches an advanced stage. It is a public health concern and a major cause of premature death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, with more than one in four men and one in five women – over a billion people – having the condition.

As most people may not show any symptoms, the only way to detect high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. However, when the symptoms do occur, they can include early-morning headache, nosebleeds, irregular heartbeat and buzzing in the ears. Symptoms of severe hypertension include tiredness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain and muscle tremors.

Hypertension can be hereditary, and the risk of high blood pressure increases when hereditary factors are combined with unhealthy lifestyle choices. We spoke to Dr. Rahat Ghazanfar, Staff Physician, Preventive Medicine, Medical Subspecialties Institute from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, who highlights some important lifestyle tips to help you lower your risk and help you improve your overall health.

What you eat is key

 A diet that is too high in sodium and too low in potassium puts you at risk for high blood pressure.

Dr. Ghazanfar. recommends cutting back on salt and increasing potassium intake. The recommended daily salt limit for healthy adults is 2,300 mg (one teaspoon of salt), while those with high blood pressure should limit their daily intake to 1,500 mg.

Eating foods including bananas, leafy greens, potatoes, and some dried fruits including dates and raisins is a great way to up your potassium intake. Limiting or avoiding fatty, fried or processed foods is also a positive step in keeping your blood pressure in check.

If you are looking for a specific diet to follow, a good idea is to adopt the DASH diet which is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Studies have shown that following this eating plan lowers blood pressure. The DASH diet has been developed to lower blood pressure without medication by focusing on the right portion sizes of balanced, including nutrient-rich food and reducing salt intake. The diet can also help prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Get moving!  

In a hot country like the UAE, it is common to restrict activity and movement to the indoors, especially in the scorching heat of July and August. Because it has been proven that regular aerobic activity improves blood vessel flexibility, helps to create new blood vessels, and increases blood flow, which may help lower your blood pressure it is important to continue exercising during the summer even if you prefer the outdoors.

All you need is just 30 minutes of activity during the day, and it doesn’t matter whether you choose to hit the gym, swim in the pool, or do go for a dance class, as long as you have a daily or almost daily commitment to having an active life.

Manage your weight and your stress levels

Losing even a small amount of weight can significantly help in lowering blood pressure if you are overweight. You can achieve that by eating a healthy diet and staying active.

It is also important to consider some relaxation techniques and get support from your friends and family, to control your stress levels. Reducing stress and anxiety can prevent related episodes of elevated blood pressure.

Even though genetics play a role in developing hypertension, there is no doubt that adhering to a healthy lifestyle can help keep things in check and reduce our risk of disease. It is key that you perform regular check-ups with a doctor because detecting any disease at an early stage greatly enhances the chances of successful treatment and disease detection well before it happens.

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