It was a busy Thursday and I had just finished my classes. Before heading home, I sat in the office to check my emails.
Suddenly, one of the staff came in a hurry, panic evident across her face. “Dr Wana, please come! Come and see Prof A!”
“What happened?” I ask her.
“He is feeling dizzy. I think he needs medical attention,” she said urgently.
Prof A was sitting down when I saw him. Upon checking his stats, I saw that his blood pressure was elevated to 198/100 mmHg.
Alarmed, I ask him to take deep breaths and try to relax. I found out that he had reduced the dose of his blood pressure medication several weeks ago.
He was later taken to the hospital where luckily, the medical officer cleared him to drive home as his blood pressure had normalised.
Prof A’s situation is unfortunately quite common.
Because high blood pressure doesn’t usually cause any symptoms until it has reached dangerous levels, many patients simply stop or reduce their medication when they think they feel better.
In fact, when you have high blood pressure, the most important thing you can do is to continue taking your medication as directed.
If it causes side effects, discuss with your doctor to iron out the issues. There may well be alternatives that will be compatible with you.
No symptoms doesn’t mean no risk
High blood pressure is a common condition, yet many of us may not even know that we have it as there are no symptoms.
Dizziness, such as that experienced by Prof A, shortness of breath and nosebleed, may not occur until your blood pressure has reached a dangerous level.
Other signs include blurry or other vision changes, nausea, confusion, seizures, bloody or brown urine, and chest pain.
If you find yourself in a blood pressure emergency, stop any strenuous activities and remove yourself from the environment that is causing you stress.
You should also seek medical attention as soon as possible. In some cases, a blood pressure emergency can be life-threatening, causing internal bleeding, brain swelling or stroke.
Having high blood pressure leads to a number of health problems, including heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
Because there are usually no signs or symptoms, the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to use a monitor, or blood pressure meter.
Readings are routinely taken during doctor visits.
What can I do to lower my blood pressure?
Aside from taking your medications as instructed, there are simple lifestyle changes that can help.
You can control your blood pressure by:
• Losing weight (if you are overweight).
• Choosing a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
• Reducing the amount of salt you eat.
• Doing something active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.
• Cutting down on alcohol (if you drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day).
• Getting a home blood pressure meter. People who check their own blood pressure at home do better at keeping it low and can sometimes even reduce the amount of medicine they take.
Which medicines might I need?
There are lots of different medicines to treat high blood pressure. But some of the medicines have other health benefits besides lowering blood pressure.
Your doctor will decide which medicine is best for you depending on the following factors:
• How high your blood pressure is.
• Your other health problems, if you have any.
• How well you do on the medicines you try.