High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition in Hong Kong, afflicting one in every eight individuals, according to official statistics in 2014.
It has been dubbed the silent killer because there are no obvious signs or symptoms of the condition, although some patients would experience headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath.
High blood pressure is the most important known risk factor for stroke. Studies show that more than 70 percent of stroke victims have a history of high blood pressure.
As such, regular monitoring of blood pressure is essential in the prevention of a stroke.
If left untreated, persistent high blood pressure could lead to a stroke because it damages blood vessels, particularly those in the brain, causing them to narrow or rupture.
The narrowing of vessels could lead to an ischemic stroke, while a rupture could give rise to a hemorrhagic stroke.
What is unfortunate and saddening is that quite a number of patients learn of their high blood pressure condition only after a stroke, or when the damage has been done.
As prevention is better than cure, those aged 30 or above should take blood pressure measurements at least once a year.
For patients diagnosed with hypertension, they should monitor their condition by measuring and recording blood pressure readings twice a day – in the morning and before going to bed.
Equally important is observing a healthy and responsible lifesyle such as controlling one’s weight, reducing the consumption of food items that have high salt and fat content, doing regular physical exercises (e.g., brisk-walking for 30 minutes daily), avoiding stress, quitting smoking, and controlling alcohol intake.
Patients with hypertension should follow the doctor’s advice and take prescribed medicines religiously.
They should also follow the instructions and suggestions of the nurse or caretaker to maintain their blood pressure at 140/90mmHg or below in order to minimize the risk of a stroke.
Patients and their family members should also learn of the four warning signs for stroke, which could be summarized by using the acronym FAST:
Face: A patient’s facial expression is asymmetrical as part of the face may have fallen on one side;
Arms: Weakness in the limbs and inability to raise their arms;
Speech: Difficulties in communicating, slurring;
Time: If a patient is exhibiting any of these signs, call 999 for immediate medical assistance.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 23
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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