High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition in Singapore, with about one in four adults suffering from it. According to the Ministry of Health, in 2010, the prevalence of high blood pressure in Singapore among those aged 18-69 was 23.5 per cent.
Fortunately, this condition can be prevented by making healthy diet and lifestyle choices. These preventive measures should start from a young age, says Dr Ian Phoon, Consultant, SingHealth Polyclinics-Pasir Ris.
Normal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg or less (systolic/diastolic; mmHg is millimetres of mercury). You have high blood pressure if your systolic pressure is consistently 140mmHg or more and/or your diastolic pressure is 90mmHg or more.
In 95 per cent of cases, the exact cause of high blood pressure is unknown. In the remaining 5 per cent, it may be due to underlying causes such as kidney disease, narrowing of blood vessels or hormonal imbalance.
“Although we may not be able to identify one cause of high blood pressure, there are several risk factors associated with it, such as obesity, physical inactivity, excessive salt intake or alcohol intake, smoking, and persistent stress. If you have gout, you are also at higher risk,” says Dr Phoon.
If you are over 40 years old, or have any of these risk factors for high blood pressure, check your blood pressure yearly.
Another problem with high blood pressure is that it does not have any warning signs or symptoms. Hence the only way to detect it is by taking a reading. If high blood pressure is undetected and untreated, it can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and other serious diseases.
How can you avoid developing high blood pressure?
- Maintain a healthy weight: A body mass index (BMI) of 18.5-22.9 is considered healthy for people of Asian descent. If your BMI is 23-27.4, you have a moderate risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Reduce your daily sodium (salt) intake: Limit salt to less than 2,000mg or about a teaspoon daily.
- Eat a balanced diet: Avoid saturated fats and opt for lean meats, low-fat dairy and fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
- Increase your physical activity: Get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.
- Cut down on alcohol: Men should limit their consumption to two standard drinks per day and women to one.
- Quit smoking: Smoking raises your blood pressure and can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Reduce stress: Learn relaxation therapies and get enough sleep.