Hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure is known as a “silent killer” because it has no distinctive symptoms. One may even refer to signs of hypertension as a common headache.
Hypertension is a major health problem in Ghana, being a leading cause of admissions and deaths in the country. More than one in four adults in Ghana have hypertension. This high prevalence has persisted for decades and is similar in rural and urban populations. (K.Bosu, 2021)
“Hypertension is asymptomatic and that is why it is regarded as a silent killer,” says Dr. Henry Kusi Appiah, a medical expert at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. According to him frequent early morning headaches, tiredness and palpitations can be early signs of hypertension “but the very sure way you can if you have hypertension is by checking your vitals regularly. Checking your blood pressure regularly helps one pick up the disease.”
He notes that anyone who waits for a sign of hypertension before visiting a healthcare facility might pass away before knowing. Per his expertise, the condition can be managed and in some conditions treated.
The health professional made this known in a discussion with Samuel Eshun on the Happy Morning Show on the topic, ‘Dealing with Hypertension’.
In cases of primary hypertension the condition can be managed and only treated in secondary cases. “In primary hypertension you can’t really identify what causes the condition. Sex, race, age, social norms, genetics, diet and stress can be some causes of primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension is caused by a disease a condition the patient finds themselves in and can be treated. Changes in hormones to support pregnancy can be deregulated and the person can suffer a pregnancy induced hypertension. Some can also have goitre and get hypertension. Although hypertension causes kidney problems, the kidney problems can also cause hypertension and these can be treated.”
The doctor suggested lifestyle modification and medication as ways of managing hypertension and these can be done simultaneously or otherwise. “If one’s blood pressure is more than 150 or 120 we can start the patient on medication and later add lifestyle direction to it.”
Although medication helps in reducing hypertension, behaviour that causes the condition will have to be changed. “One will have to reduce their salt intake. I am not saying you shouldn’t take salt but it should be below normal levels.”
With physical activities and exercise being an important way of managing hypertension, Dr. Kusi Appiah recommended exercise regimes for patients. He however advised them to seek professional help before settling on an exercise regime. “You need to get a medical professional to prescribe the right exercise for you. An older person may be required to brisk walk and not lift weights.
One must also try to reduce stress in their lives and reduce their alcohol intake. Taking too much chocolate and ice cream can increase your risk of hypertension.”
Dr. Kusi Appiah emphasized on the need for patients to consistently take their medication. “You don’t need to stop taking your drugs at a point because you feel fine. And don’t go to the pharmacy for a refill but.