Hypertension is usually called the “silent killer” and for a reason. Most people don’t even know they have one as they don’t feel any symptoms. Like many internal diseases, it is often hard to spot until telling signs emerge or something ruptures.
While hypertension is not a heart disease, it is a serious medical condition that significantly increases the risks of heart, brain, kidney, and other diseases. Even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic from January to October 2021 when registered deaths climbed to a historic high of 75,285, heart diseases still took more lives than the dreaded virus at 126,000 deaths, according to preliminary figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority as of June 2022.
Dr. Krizia Yap-Uy, Chief Fellow of Adult Cardiology at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, spoke about hypertension and other matters of the heart in Breaking the Silence on Silent Killers: Understanding and Prevention of Hypertension, Stroke and Heart Attack, a webinar sponsored by Sun Life Gripe Financial, Inc. (Sun Life Grepa), one of the country’s major insurers. Under its “Healthier Life, Brighter Life” campaign, Sun Life Grepa aims to raise public awareness on the realities of facing hypertension.
Here are five surprising facts that Dr. Yap-Uy shared in the September 16, 2022 webinar:
1. Half of the reason for hypertension is in your blood.
“Fifty-percent of hypertension is due to genetics.” Dr. Yap-Uy said it gets passed down through one’s genes. So children or grandchildren whose family has a history of hypertension or heart disease must keep a close watch on their blood pressure.
2. What you eat affects your heart health.
Another significant contributing factor to hypertension is diet. A 24-year study by Stanford Medicine reveals that Filipinos are especially vulnerable to hypertension because of the food they eat. The daily Filipino diet contains an average of 12 grams of salt, eight times the recommended amount by the American Heart Association, according to the study. Dr. Yap-Uy recommended a diet low in salt, low in fat, and low in red meat. “An ideal heart-healthy diet has more fruit, vegetables, whole grain and non-fat dairy products,” she added.
3. Filipinos have habits that harm the heart.
Heart it or hate it, the fact is Filipinos are prone to habits that can also harm their heart health.
And if there is one harmful habit that tops the list, it’s smoking. The Stanford Medicine study said 28% of Filipinos and 17% of Filipino-Americans smoke cigarettes. Dr. Yap-Uy said cutting cigarette consumption is key to good heart health.
Another harmful habit that doesn’t get much attention is overeating. Binging on food high in fat and sugar can often lead to a spike in blood pressure. Being overweight also increases the risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heart rhythm that begins in the upper chambers of the heart and can cause stroke, heart failure or other complications.
4. A heart attack and a stroke are not the same.
The terms “heart attack” and “stroke” are often interchangeably used, but actually mean two different things that affect two different major organs. Dr. Yap-Uy clarified that a “heart attack occurs when one or more arteries of the heart become blocked.” A stroke, on the other hand, is a brain attack that can be caused by two things: “either the artery of the brain gets blocked or there is a rapture of an artery in the vein.”
Watch out for these tell-tale signs of a heart attack that include chest pains, lightheadedness, nausea and shortness of breath. On the other hand, tell-tale signs of a stroke include face drooping, speech difficulty or slurring, severe headache and visual difficulty.
5. It’s easy to take good care of your heart.
Taking good care of one’s heart health is easier than one thinks. Dr. Yap-Uy said having a regular blood pressure check is the simplest way to find out if someone is in danger of hypertension or managing it. For Filipinos, the ideal blood pressure is 130/80 for adults and 140/90 for older people. A simple blood test could also help determine if the hypertension is accompanied by other comorbidities such as diabetes, high cholesterol and uric acid levels.
Hypertension, stroke, heart attack and other heart diseases can be debilitating, as well as financially draining. Out-of-pocket medical expenses associated with major illnesses can be avoided with foresight: being mindful and vigilant about one’s health, as well as getting insured.
A Lifetime of Wellness
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