Don’t let high blood pressure get you down

May 29, 2023

blood pressure

MakatiMed says important lifestyle tweaks can make a big difference

Based on recent data, high blood pressure is living up to its reputation as a silent killer. The fifth leading cause of death among Filipinos, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s June 2022 report, hypertension among Pinoys rose by 37% in 2021. That’s the highest it’s ever been since 1992, said a study on hypertension in the Philippines by the Philippine Heart Association (PHA). 

Though regarded as an old person’s disease, high blood pressure (BP) has now been diagnosed in at least 5 percent of Filipino youth between the ages of 12 and 18. Here’s the more startling fact: Regardless of age, hypertensive adults and adolescents shared the same profile: a higher body mass index, waist measurement, and central obesity rate. 

Why is hypertension so difficult to control? The top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed) points to the lack of warning signs or symptoms. Saturnino P. Javier, MD, Chief of the Section of Cardiology says “Usual symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or shortness of breath, are not specific to high blood pressure. And they usually present themselves when one’s blood pressure has surged to life-threatening levels. More alarmingly, someone may have high blood pressure and not feel anything at all. Measuring the blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer is a very reliable method that a doctor can perform in the clinic to know what your blood pressure is and whether you’re hypertensive or not.”

Dr. Javier cites the need to note these two numbers each time your blood pressure is taken on a sphygmomanometer. The first or upper number is called systolic blood pressure, the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second or lower number is the diastolic blood pressure; that’s the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.

“When you have high blood pressure, the force of blood pushing against your artery walls is very high. This can damage the arteries and set up a series of events which can lead to catastrophic outcomes – like heart attack and stroke,” explains Dr. Javier. 

Local BP guidelines have been created, which adopt many recommendations from our American and European colleagues. These have provided blood pressure thresholds for medical professionals to follow. In general, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mm Hg normal. A BP that is consistently 130/80 mm Hg is viewed as high normal and already warrants dietary and lifestyle recommendations. 

Striving for the ideal BP seems like a tall order, but it’s a necessary one as Dr. Javier underlines. Uncontrolled high blood pressure makes you vulnerable to stroke, heart attack, and other conditions. These important lifestyle tweaks will make a huge difference: 

When you exercise regularly, you strengthen your heart, which then pumps more blood with less effort. This decreases the force of blood on the artery walls and lowers blood pressure. You should target the ideal body weight, Dr. Javier emphasizes. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.

Smoking cessation is a very vital component of lifestyle intervention among hypertensive individuals. Nicotine serves absolutely no useful purpose in one’s overall health, adds Dr. Javier. It’s also best to focus on lean protein and fruits and vegetables representing the colors of the rainbow and to cut back on sodium or salt. 

Managing stress is a must in dealing with hypertension. “When you’re stressed, the body releases hormones that elevate your heart rate and constrict blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to spike,” explains Dr. Javier. Go for a walk, meditate, spend time with family and friends. These have a way of calming you and lifting your spirits. 

If you think you have high blood pressure, MakatiMed encourages you to see your cardiologist who can make a proper diagnosis and come up with the best ways to lower your blood pressure and prevent the condition from escalating. 

For more information, please contact MakatiMed On-Call at +632.88888 999, email, or visit Follow @IamMakatiMed on Facebook and Twitter.