Hypertension: The Silent Killer

He woke up to the sound of his alarm as he does every morning. It was 5am sharp but to his surprise he felt different; he could barely lift his hand. He thought, what could be happening? Did I sleep wrong? He finally made it to the bathroom but almost fell, as he was quite clumsy, something he also noticed that morning but paid no attention to.

Thank God! There was a clinic at his work place, he thought. He drove past his office complex, straight to the staff clinic, and got there at 8:40am after overcoming the Lagos transient ‘morning gridlock’ and poured out his worries on the doctor who listened patiently, asked more questions and examined him. His plan was to get this over with, take a few tablets and get inside his office to begin work at 9am.

Meanwhile, His Blood pressure (BP) was 210/100 mmHg and there was only one possibility- a stroke was imminent and he needed urgent care.

Mr. G was only 42 years old with a great job, a beautiful, charismatic wife and 3 lovely children but he had never felt the need to check his blood pressure and as most of us would think. He said, “What? Haba, doctor! BP high ke, I’m not that old now, don’t you think its typhoid or malaria or that I’m just over stressing myself?”

The Doctor replied, “It isn’t typhoid. We should be happy that you are still walking and breathing. To put it plainly, it’s a miracle that you drove yourself here. You could have died in your sleep, or had a stroke on your way, so, I have to admit you and get those numbers down. “

Mr G’s wife rushed over to the clinic, two hours after he called saying he was admitted for observation. She immediately started praying loudly, saying repeatedly, “Stroke cannot be for my husband”.

Mr G had hypertension and never knew his numbers till danger came knocking on the door. Yes, Mr G got better, God answered the prayers but he learnt the hard way. The doctor made sure his wife didn’t leave without a BP check and quick examination telling her that ‘Prayer without works is dead!’

We all act like Mr G sometimes. We wait for crisis before taking action. He was lucky but someone else may not be, hence, the need for awareness and action

According to the new guidelines by the American Heart Association (AHA) in 2017, Hypertension is persistently high blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg and above.

For those of us that remember fraction in primary school, it’s just the way it’s written. The top value is known as your systolic blood pressure – which is the higher limit of pressure reached when your heart contracts, while the denominator is the diastolic blood pressure, the lowest pressure in the between heartbeats.

In simple terms, high blood pressure is raised force of blood pushing against the walls of the vessels. This makes the heart have to pump harder and do more work.  

What makes it more deadly is the fact that it just creeps in on us, with no symptoms initially, until it starts damaging the body organs from brain, to the heart, kidneys, eyes and more, causing stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and in some cases, blurred vision or complete vision loss.

In 2018, PubMed brought to our notice that, of the 160 million people in Nigeria, over 46 million are hypertensive. The story gets even more depressing as some studies reveal that our new adoptions of unhealthy eating and drinking habits and stressful routines as we see in mega cities like Lagos, puts  a lot more at risk. An overwhelming number of Nigerians still wake up to high blood pressure daily.

I agree with you, ‘God forbid’, but the truth is, it may come as a surprise because some never made effort to know their numbers, some cannot even afford to, others don’t even care at all hence many remain in the dark as regards knowing if they are at risk or need to make adjustments to their lifestyle.

What can you do? I know you’re thinking, “What can I do? I’m 30 and rocking life”. Yes, great! But, it is you I’m actually talking to, even if you are just 25 years old. Early detection is good, but prevention is best. We can start by knowing the risk factors. They include;

  • Age- Risk increases with age.
  • Race- The risk has been found to be higher in black people. However, this is not due to skin colour but is as a result of the fact that they are of African descent/heritage.
  • Family History- When a family member already has the condition, there is a higher chance of being hypertensive.
  • Diet- A high sodium intake or too little potassium or an excessive intake of oil. In summary, an unhealthy diet increases risk.
  • Being overweight/ obese- It is imperative to know your Body Mass Index as it is a measure of body size. The formula  is Weight (in kilograms) divided by square of the height (in meters), with normal ranging between 18.5- 24.9.
  • Tobacco Smoking
  • Excessive/frequent intake of alcohol
  • Physical inactivity- Inactivity increases risk, that’s why medical fitness experts encourage exercise for a minimum of 30- 45 minutes for at least 5 days a week. It is alright to start by walking, just pick an activity you can sustain.
  • Co-morbidities: Having high blood pressure in combination with conditions like high cholesterol or diabetes can increase one’s chances of developing serious complications, especially without medical help. If you or loved ones already have hypertension, please visit your doctor regularly for follow up, adopt lifestyle changes and adhere to medications.

There are some risks we cannot change like hereditary tendencies, race and unfortunately, you cannot become Peter Pan of Neverland, who never grows old.

However, we should do what we can and make some changes in our lifestyle. Let us make effort towards healthy choices now for a healthier tomorrow.

 Hypertension has no cure yet, but can be well controlled with medications and positive lifestyle changes. No one has to die from its complications.

Never had a check up?

 Check your Blood pressure and encourage your loved ones to do same. Have you been told you have a high blood pressure before? Visit the nearest health care facility and ensure proper follow up.

This is not an exhaustive list, so please, feel free to ask questions or make clarifications in the comment section!

By: Dr Imadojiemu Marietta (@etta_MD)

4 Replies to “Hypertension: The Silent Killer”

  1. Thanks for the info I am always checking my blood pressure at times 13&90 if I drive and waking up dizziness.i tried to lose weight with low carbohydrates no way.what can I do because I work Monday to Friday, Saturday is my resting day Sunday church as early as 6:30 am I am 52 year and family hereditary is present in both of my family

    1. Good day! Thank you so much for reading. Please, we advise that you go to the hospital as soon as possible to ensure proper detailing and follow-up, especially since you have a family history and undergo frequent stress,thank you.

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