Blood Pressure

We All Should Work With Heart

On its website, the World Heart Foundation identifies some simple steps to maintain a healthy heart – attention to issues such as a healthy food intake, regular exercise, saying no to tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption and knowing our numbers. That is, knowing and monitoring our blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

Blood pressure is what keeps those life-sustaining, oxygenated red blood cells circulating around our body.

But too much blood pressure can result in a catastrophic outcome – just like a pressure cooker on high heat without an escape valve.

Hypertension (the medical term for abnormally high blood pressure) is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most serious risk factors for death worldwide. It is estimated that about 30% of Australian adults have hypertension; and most of these people are receiving no treatment.

What makes hypertension so serious is that, well before the explosive heart attack or stroke occurs, there is underlying, sometimes irreparable damage done to the cardiovascular system, the kidneys and the brain. Also, hypertension, especially when combined with diabetes, significantly increases the risk of blindness.

In most cases, the actual cause of high blood pressure can’t be identified, but we do know what groups of people are most at risk of developing hypertension; and we do know ways whereby we can reduce the risk.

There are usually no symptoms of hypertension; at least generally not until the blood pressure reaches a sustained dangerous level. So, if there is a history in the family of heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes, a regular – at least yearly – check up with your GP is essential.

If we do have hypertension, regular and long-term treatment with medication will most likely be a necessity. Understanding how these blood pressure medicines work is helpful; and our pharmacist can provide you with so-called Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) which explains the benefits and the occasional problems you may encounter. Uncomfortable side effects with anti-hypertensive therapy can sometimes be experienced, especially in the early stages of treatment, so it’s nice to know what to expect.

Taking ownership of a medical condition will often help improve outcomes. With hypertension, this can sometimes be achieved by the use of home blood pressure measuring devices. The modern machines are simple and easy to use. Check with your doctor whether one of these could be an advantage. And if you have trouble remembering to take your blood pressure tablets, a “dose administration aid” or medication blister pack could help.

It’s as well to remember that there are some medicines – both prescription and non-prescription medicines – which can cause or worsen hypertension. This includes some pain relievers, anti-depressants oral contraceptives, cough and cold products and various herbal preparations. If you have high blood pressure, always check first with your pharmacist before self selecting another medicine.