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Hypertension – a silent killer


A silent killer, hypertension or high blood pressure can often go undiagnosed as it has no obvious symptoms. The condition however in the long run if left untreated can lead to cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic disease and ultimately heart failure. According to the ACE study conducted in 15 countries in which Dr. Ahmed Alhaj Saleh, Consultant – Internal Medicine at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai, was the primary investigator for Dubai, the prevalence of hypertension in the Middle East and Gulf areas is 42%.

“The 42% consists of those that have been diagnosed with the condition. However, this number might be higher as a hypertension is a silent disease and in over 90% of the cases has no symptoms,” said Dr. Ahmed. “In some instances, the patient might experience headaches, neck strains and the feeling of heaviness in the upper body and in rare cases, the patient may have very severe headaches which will indicate intracranial bleeding or bleeding into the brain.”

“The first step to treating hypertension is the diagnosis as this can help reduce the occurrence of heart failure, heart attacks and stroke,” he continued. “All of these can have devastating consequences if left untreated.”

Ensuring the right diagnosis of the condition is important as it results in a lifetime of medications. A wrong diagnosis can lead to further complications.

“Most people think that a normal BP level is 120/80 however the medical community agrees that BP should be maintained at 140/90 or less. It is a Doctor’s duty to rightly diagnose hypertension and this is done by two methods,” explained Dr. Ahmed. “One method, known as ambulatory blood pressure involves taking a person’s blood pressure at regular periods over a 24 hour period. More often than not, people are nervous when they visit a Doctor and this elevates their blood pressure. By using the ambulatory method, this is avoided.”

“The second method involves a person taking their blood pressure at home at regular intervals. We will teach the patient how to use a small device and advise them to take their blood pressure for one week. Based on the patient’s results treatment will be advised,” said the Doctor. “This is a very crucial step as it means putting the patient on medication for a lifetime. Most patients are started on medications after a Doctor takes a single high pressure reading, this makes it harder for them to stop medication even if they don’t need it.”

Certain lifestyle habits such as smoking, excess alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes and high cholesterol can increase the risk of a person developing hypertension.

“Some endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and pituitary disease too increase the chances of hypertension,” he said. “Some ways people can prevent the onset of hypertension are by restricting salt intake, regular exercise, weight loss, going on the Mediterranean diet because it is based on fruits and vegetables, quit smoking and reducing their alcohol intake.”

“It is important to raise awareness on health conditions such as hypertension in order to encourage the community to be proactive about their health,” said Dr. Mohammed Berer, Medical Director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai. “Hypertension is known as a silent killer as it has no obvious symptoms and if left untreated it can be fatal. Raising awareness on these conditions is part of Medeor 24×7 Hospital’s ongoing efforts towards the betterment of the health of UAE’s residents.”

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