Hypertension: Not a disease that only affects the elderly

Sunday, June 24, 2018

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THERE were no telltale signs, and absolutely no warnings, to indicate that Kerry Scott's health was in trouble. At the time, he was in his early thirties and was leading a very active life, with a full-time job and engaging in extra-curricular activities, community projects and voluntary work.

Unknown to him, he had hypertension, a condition which is often referred to as the “silent killer”, because in many cases, it does not manifest any specific symptoms.

Fortunately for Scott, head of real estate and property at JN Properties Ltd, a routine visit to the dentist for cleaning was what alerted him.

“My blood pressure was 140/110. At first, it wasn't much of a concern to me, because I thought that was due to being very busy that morning. However, my dentist instructed me to rest for half an hour, and when the test was repeated, the result was the same,” he related.

The following day, Scott went to his doctor and was given medication to last for three days. When he returned to the doctor, he was advised that his blood pressure was normal.

“Everything seemed fine for a while. Then, a few months later, I noticed that whenever I was driving at nights, the glare from oncoming headlights would hurt my eyes and cause a sharp headache.”

Suspecting that it was related to high blood pressure, Scott visited his doctor, and the test revealed that his blood pressure was 140/110. A series of subsequent tests at the Heart Foundation of Jamaica confirmed that he was hypertensive.

Since that diagnosis, he has made several lifestyle changes, which included: Reducing his salt and sugar intake, eliminating alcohol and red meat, engaging in physical activity, and drinking up to two and a half litres of water every day. He also takes a blood pressure and water tablet daily; and has maintained a normal blood pressure reading for the past two years.

“Annually, I do a thorough medical check, to ensure that my health is okay,” he related. He also revealed that his father, who is hypertensive also, has successfully kept his blood pressure under control for years.

DeOmar Manning, a customer relations representative at the Jamaica Public Service, said that, at 23 years old he was also unaware that he was hypertensive, until he did a health check at his workplace.

“I had bad eating habits. Almost daily, I consumed fast food because it was convenient, and I wasn't exercising or drinking enough water,” he pointed out.

Following the diagnosis, he changed his lifestyle to include physical activity, eating healthy home-cooked meals, and drinking more water.

“I checked my blood pressure weekly and read the results to my doctor. I also ensured that I took my blood pressure tablets daily,” Manning informed.

Dr June Francis, a chronic disease specialist and director at Dia-Med Health Care, explains that normal blood pressure is 120 systolic, when the heart contracts, and 75-80 diastolic when the heart is at the rest. Someone with a reading of 130/85 for three consecutive times is regarded as having high blood pressure.

“Persons who are predisposed to hypertension are those who have type A personality, have a family history, have stressful jobs, are obese, smoke cigarettes, are diabetic, suffer from insomnia, and have a sedentary lifestyle,” Dr Francis explained.

She also pointed out that hypertension can lead to heart attack, blindness, renal failure, stroke, and bleeding in the brain, which can result in partial paralysis or death.

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