Perhaps you have heard stories of people who seemed to be in perfect health, had no glaring medical problems and had to be rushed to the hospital due to a heart attack or a stroke OR you may have been in this situation yourself. These are some common complications of Hypertension or as it is commonly known, high blood pressure. Hypertension is when the pressure with which blood moves through your blood vessels is consistently high.

High blood pressure is nick-named the silent killer because unlike other medical conditions like Malaria, it does not present obvious symptoms that would give an indication that there is something wrong within the body. There are factors which predispose one to getting hypertension such as having a family history of hypertension, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, high salt intake and obesity. Some of these factors are well under one’s control and thus can be modified to reduce the risk of hypertension while others cannot be changed. Most people are unaware that they have hypertension and only find out for the first time when they are admitted to the hospital as a result of its complications. Therefore, it is imperative to have your blood pressure checked regularly in order for any changes to be identified and addressed on time. Making a commitment to lower your blood pressure levels is the first step in combating high blood pressure and this involves lifestyle modification, and medication when necessary.

To prevent or control high blood pressure, aim to eat foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes as well as lean meat and fish and low fat dairy foods. Limiting one’s intake of foods with a high salt content, saturated fat and trans-fat, red meat and sweetened beverages also helps in reducing one’s risk of getting hypertension. By adopting the habit of reading food labels, you can choose foods more wisely. Generally, the higher your salt intake, the higher your blood pressure and for that matter salt intake should be no more than 2,400mg/ day.

One of the most important methods of controlling one’s blood pressure is by being physically active. A moderate to vigorous level of exercise for 3-4 days of the week with an average of 40 minutes per session is recommended.

If you take in alcohol excessively, limit your alcohol consumption to at most, two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. A drink is one 12 oz. beer or 4 oz. of wine. If cutting back on alcohol will be difficult on your own, there are support groups for this which your healthcare provider can assist you with.

Smoking is a proven risk factor for heart attack and stroke but its connection to hypertension is still under study. However, both smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk for the build-up of fatty substances known as a plaque within the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis for which high blood pressure is known to accelerate. Every time you smoke, it also causes a temporary increase in blood pressure.

Hypertension is a disease that is really SILENT until complications develop. Let’s all make an effort to silence the SILENT KILLER by living healthy and active lives!

DeGraft Johnson


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