Did you know? According to research based on the Philippine Heart Association’s survey, the most common cardiovascular diseases diagnosed in Filipinos is hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (BP). But what is this condition exactly and what causes it? Ahead, we detail all the things you must know about hypertension with the help of Dr. Norberto Tuano Jr., a cardiologist offering online consultations on SeeYouDoc. Through the Chikalusugan segment of Radyo5 92.3 FM’s Bagong Gawi show last February 18, 2021, the medical expert shared some tips on treating the disease.

How is hypertension diagnosed?

The World Health Organization defines blood pressure as the force exerted by your circulating blood on the walls of your arteries. As you might have observed, your blood pressure, when measured with a blood pressure monitor, is written in two numbers. The first number measures the systolic pressure, or your BP as your heart beats, while the second number, the diastolic pressure, measures your blood when your heart is at rest.

According to Dr. Tuano, our blood pressure becomes high when the systolic pressure is “more than or equal to 140 mm Hg or the diastolic is more than or equal to 90 mm Hg.” A patient is diagnosed with hypertension when their blood pressure reading is consistently equal or greater than 140/90 mm Hg.

Hypertension is a condition we need to pay attention to because, Dr. Tuano says, once we’re diagnosed with it, there's no recovering from it. Moreover, it also increases our risk factors to other complications such as damage to our coronary artery, stroke, heart failure, renal failure, as well as peripheral vascular diseases.

What are the causes of hypertension?

Dr. Tuano explains that aside from being embedded in our genes because of our family history, our “BP normally increases with age.” During our childhood, our blood pressure is normally around 100/80 mm Hg and as we grow into adulthood it increases around 120/80 mm Hg. And later in life, when we reach more than 60 years of age, Dr. Tuano noted that our normal BP range would be around 150/85 mm Hg.

Ito ay dahil sa loss of elasticity [of our blood vessels] at saka dahil sa decrease ng compliance ng arterial wall natin at saka pag-form ng atherosclerotic diseases,” he explains.

(This happens because of the loss of elasticity [of our blood vessels] and our arterial wall’s decrease of compliance, as well as the formation of atherosclerotic diseases.)

Aside from all that, our lifestyles can also increase our risk for hypertension. Unhealthy habits like smoking, inactivity, and unhealthy diet can be a cause for high blood pressure. And unfortunately, some of these habits have heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smoking is one of the leading causes of hypertension.
Smoking can increase chances of getting hypertension. Photo by Andres Siimon / Unsplash

Kapag naka-quarantine tayo sa loob ng bahay, wala tayong mga activities. Minsan ang kinakain natin sa bahay ay ‘yong mga processed food,” Dr. Tuano detailed.

(When we're quarantined inside our homes, we don’t have any activities. Sometimes, what we eat at home is processed food.)

How do you treat high blood pressure?

1. Stay alert

Dr. Tuano notes sometimes, patients would feel headaches or pain on the back of their neck that would prompt them to get their blood pressure checked. But sadly, most don’t experience such warning signs even if they’re hypertensive.

“Usually, ang mga pasyente natin ay asymptomatic — walang nararamdaman kapag mataas ‘yong blood pressure nila. Maswerte na ‘yong iba kung meron talagang nararamdaman kasi pupunta talaga sa doktor,” he says.

(Usually, our patients are asymptomatic — they don’t feel anything different when their blood pressure is high. Others are lucky if they really experience warning signs because they go to the doctor.)

Not experiencing symptoms for hypertension can lead to complacency and carelessness that can further worsen our health in the long run so it’s best to keep track of your health at all times.

Watching TV
Leading an inactive lifestyle can increase your risk for developing hypertension. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

2. Keep track of your blood pressure

Dr. Tuano suggests, “kung hypertensive ka, mas maganda kung sa bahay, regular kang kumukuha ng blood pressure mo.

(If you’re hypertensive, it would be better if you’re regularly measuring your blood pressure at home.)

With digital blood pressure monitors, keeping track of your blood pressure accurately has become easier in the comfort of your home. Just make sure, as Dr. Tuano advised, that your device is properly calibrated.

O kaya kung wala kang blood pressure na gadget, pwede kang pumunta sa pinaka malapit na drug store or health center na mayroong mga blood pressure monitor. At saka may mga essential na health workers naman doon [na pwedeng tumulong],” he adds.

(Or if you don’t have a gadget to measure blood pressure, you can go to the nearest drug store or health center that are equipped with blood pressure monitors. In addition, you will find essential health workers there that can help.)

Of course, if we’re opting for this, Dr. Tuano reminds us to observe proper health protocols as we’re still in the middle of the pandemic.

Hypertension treatment includes regular home checking of blood pressure with digital blood pressure monitors.
Regularly check your BP at home with a digital blood pressure monitor. Photo by Steve Buissinne / Pixabay.

3. Embrace a healthier lifestyle

Contrary to popular belief, medications aren’t the only way we can manage hypertension. “Lifestyle modification change ng mga tao ‘yan ang kailangan to stop ang avalanche ng hypertension ngayong pandemic,” Dr. Tuano points out.

(People’s lifestyle modification and change — that’s what’s needed to stop the avalanche of hypertension in this pandemic.)

We can still prevent and or control hypertension by making some adjustments in our habits. For one, you can avoid smoking and alcohol intake. If your cholesterol is high or if you usually eat salty processed foods, you can decrease your intake to be healthier.

Aside from changing our diets, it’s also equally helpful if we exercise regularly. “Importante ‘yan sa ating katawan. Para mag-circulate ‘yong blood natin, para pumayat tayo,” Dr. Tuano expounds.

(It’s important for our body so our blood would circulate and we lose weight.)

Fruit display in supermarket
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processd food. Photo by gemma / Unsplash

He recommends doing aerobic exercises like brisk walking for most days of the week for at least 30 minutes each day. “Kung 7 days in a week, dapat 5 days in a week, nage-exercise tayo, naglalakad tayo ng 30-45 minutes. ‘Di lang tayo nakaupo sa bahay at nanonoood ng TV.”

(If there are 7 days in a week, for 5 days in a week, we should be exercising or walking for 30-45 minutes instead of just sitting at home and watching TV.)

However, if you have no contraindications and your blood pressure is controlled, you can try more intensive activities like doing Zumba. Dr. Tuano warns, however, that you have to be careful. If your BP is not controlled, you could end up in a worse state when you attempt such activities.

4. Consult a trusted health professional

Knowing your body’s limits is important when managing your blood pressure. So if you consistently have high BP readings, it’s best to consult a licensed health professional first as there’s a proper process and method to treating hypertensive patients.

Dr. Tuano says, “kung mataas ang blood pressure mo ng 140/90 mm Hg, siguro ang sasabihin ng doktor sa’yo, kung wala ka noong tinatawag namin na target organ damage, lifestyle modification change ka muna for 3 to 6 months. Pero kung mayroon na, then some doctors will prescribe medications to the patient.”

(If your blood pressure is as high as 140 /90 mm Hg and you don’t have what we call a target organ damage, a doctor will possibly advise you to modify your lifestyle first for 3 to 6 months. But if it has already occured, then some doctors will prescribe medications to the patient.)

Following your doctors advice religiously will help you control your blood pressure, allowing you to enjoy life better.

SeeYouDoc online consultation app
Find cardiologists like Dr. Tuano on SeeYouDoc's online consultation app.

Manage your cardiovascular health

Stay on top of your health. To manage your blood pressure and have a healthy heart, reach out to a licensed health professional as soon as possible.

SeeYouDoc, a DOH-accredited e-health platform helps you connect with a number of cardiologists and practitioners like Dr. Tuano who are ready to give medical advice. Book a consultation through our website or app (available for Android and iOS users) today.