Health + Wellness

Seven key tips on blood pressure management

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By Alexis En, Regional Marketing Director of Omron Healthcare Asia Pacific

Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa and Nasi Lemak are just a few of the delicious local delicacies that Singaporeans love. However, frequent indulgence of these dishes, which normally comes with high salt content, increases our risk of developing hypertension.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is described as ‘the condition in which the blood is pumped around the body at too high a pressure’ according to the Ministry of Health in Singapore. It is one of the main precursors to cardiovascular disease due to the increased amount of strain exerted on the heart, arteries and blood vessels when our blood pressure is too high.

Unfortunately, hypertension is a common health condition among Singaporeans. The latest available data[1] on the condition highlights that slightly less than one in four people here aged 18 to 69 years have hypertension.

Hypertension is also often called a ‘silent killer’, as most hypertension patients do not feel any discomfort or notice any symptoms early in the condition and therefore may not seek treatment until it is too late.

We must be proactive in maintaining a healthy blood pressure. The following are seven key points on blood pressure management that we may want to keep in mind as we strive to keep the silent killer at bay.

1) 150 minutes of exercise a week

Exercise makes the heart stronger and exerts less strain on blood vessels. According to the Ministry of Health’s Clinical Practice Guidelines on hypertension, physical exercise of about 150 minutes a week can help reduce blood pressure and boost cardiovascular health[2]. This can, of course, be done over different days.

The point is to stay active. We can all make small adjustments in our lifestyle to strive towards more active and less sedentary days. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the neighbourhood stall instead of driving, use standing desks to prevent seating the entire day at work, and so on.

2) <1 teaspoon of salt

Salt, or more accurately sodium, is a vital mineral for bodily functions that is important for the transmission of nerve impulses. It helps us control the fluid balance in the body and aid in the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

However, our body only requires a small amount of sodium, which is a main natural component of salt. Excess sodium consumed is usually excreted out into the bloodstream by the kidney, which increases blood volume due to sodium’s water retention properties. This places additional strain on the blood vessels tasked to circulate the higher volumes of blood throughout the body.

The Health Promotion Board[3] recommends an intake of less than 5g of salt a day. This is roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of salt. Obviously, not many of us take salt directly. However, if we consider the salt that is in what we eat and drink daily, especially if we eat out often, many of us consume way too much of it. In fact, eight in ten Singaporeans exceed this recommended intake.

3) 2+2 servings of fruits and vegetables

Consuming two servings of fruits and two servings of vegetables daily is essential in preventing hypertension. Green leafy vegetables are rich in magnesium which can help in lowering blood pressure. Another significant mineral in the fight against hypertension is potassium, which we can get from eating fruits like bananas and leafy vegetables such as spinach.

4) 120 over 80

To name a few benefits, checking our blood pressure at home helps to inform treatment decisions by our doctors, monitor the effectiveness of antihypertensive therapy and support dosage adjustments.

Checking our blood pressure has never been more convenient. We can easily get blood pressure monitors from pharmacies, clinics and medical equipment stores. It is advisable that we have at least one blood pressure monitor on hand in each household. Use it to monitor our blood pressure every day.

Look out for the systolic (the higher number) and the diastolic (lower number) on the monitor reading. A blood pressure reading of less than 120mmHG for the systolic and less than 80mmHG for the diastolic is considered the ideal blood pressure level for a healthy adult.

5) A 2-point checklist when choosing a home blood pressure monitor

  1. Type – Home blood pressure monitors usually come in two main styles – Upper arm monitors and wrist monitors. Upper arm monitors are like the ones commonly used in a doctor’s office while wrist monitors are smaller in size and more travel-friendly. It is advisable to get wrist monitors with positioning guides to ensure accurate readings are taken.
  2. Features – Fundamentally, accuracy should be the main feature of a blood pressure monitor. Independent validation tests are conducted to ensure that digital blood pressure monitors provide accurate readings. Therefore, choosing a blood pressure monitor that is validated for its accuracy is vital. Beyond that, we can choose a blood pressure monitor based on ease-of-use and/or high-tech features and sophistication. Ease-of-use is especially important if the equipment is meant to be operated by an elderly person. One-touch monitors give a quick and easy-to-read result.

More sophisticated blood pressure monitors may come with features like built-in memory, which allows us to store our readings for a bigger long-term picture. Some are even equipped with wireless and Bluetooth capabilities that helps us synchronize our blood pressure readings with our smartphone. This helps us to chart, store and share our results easily with our doctors and loved ones.

6) 5 DOs and DON’Ts for checking blood pressure at home

Tips from the American Heart Association[4]

  1. Do relax! Avoid caffeine or exercise 30 minutes before taking blood pressure.
  2. Do sit correctly. Sit with back straight and supported. Keep feet flat and avoid crossing legs. Support arms on a flat surface with upper arm at the level of heart.
  3. Do measure at the same time every day. Try morning and evening, or both.
  4. Do take more than one reading and record the results. Take two or three readings, one minute apart each time.
  5. Don’t take the measurement over thick or tight-fitting clothes.

7) 90-Day Blood Pressure Challenge

At Omron, we recommend that that every healthy individual takes part in a 90-Day Blood Pressure Challenge[5]. It is a self-evaluating exercise that helps us commit to monitoring our blood pressure every day. An integral part of the challenge is the 90-day challenge calendar[6] that provides participants with a gradual week-by-week checkpoint of activities to be undertaken to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Many people are surprised to find that it is not as challenging or difficult as they initially think when they start committing to maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

The end goal – Going for Zero

The number ‘Zero’ does not impress many unless it is used to account for one of the world’s greatest causes of death. Going for Zero™[7] is a philosophy we have. It is also a movement and a pledge[8] to strive for zero heart attacks and strokes worldwide.

It may sound daunting. However, we truly believe that all we need is for each of us to start taking responsibility for our own health. When we stay vigilant in monitoring and managing our blood pressure levels, we would already have a good starting point and would be on our way towards zero heart attacks and strokes.

 


References

[1] Data.gov.sg – Prevalence of Hypertension, Diabetes, High Total Cholesterol, Obesity and Daily Smoking

[2] Ministry of Health – Clinical Practice Guidelines on hypertension

[3] HPB – HPB DECLARES WAR ON SALT: SINGAPORE RESIDENTS EXCEED DAILY RECOMMENDED SALT CONSUMPTION BY 60%

[4] American Heart Association – Monitoring Your Blood Pressure At Home

[5] Omron Health Care – 90 Day Blood Pressure Challenge

[6] Omron Health Care – 90 day challenge calendar

[7] Omron Health Care – Going for Zero

[8] Omron Health Care – Going for Zero Pledge

 

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