Hypertension: A silent killer, leading cause of fatal complications

A recent study found that about 50 per cent Emiratis suffer from hypertension although they are not aware that they have the condition.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Mon 24 Mar 2014, 1:17 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:57 PM

Affordability of medication for high blood pressure is a major challenge in managing the condition, a senior health expert has said. Dr Azan Salem Binbrek, consultant cardiologist at Dubai’s Rashid Hospital, said expensive blood pressure drugs — especially for expatriates — followed by ensuring compliance in taking medicines regularly are the main challenges in managing the disease.

“The solution, currently being undertaken by the government, is universal insurance for all residents of the UAE. Nationals get medical treatment free of charge but the challenge here is to make sure (of the) compliance of medication,” said the doctor.

A recent study found that about 50 per cent Emiratis suffer from hypertension although they are not aware that they have the condition.

“Once they were told they had hypertension, they started their medical treatment,” he said.

“The prevalence of hypertension amongst UAE nationals between the ages of 35-70 years is about 50 per cent and this is from the ‘PURE’ study done recently,” he said.

According to Dr Binbrek, lifestyle is, by far, the most important factor in controlling the problem. “We need to get our patients to reduce weight, salt intake and alcohol and do regular exercise. Furthermore, all hypertensive patients must have screening for diabetes, high cholesterol and cessation of smoking. Stress is also an important contributing factor,” he said.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is focusing on education in hospitals and public places. “Physicians must emphasise to the patient the importance of controlling blood pressure and compliance in taking medicines regularly.”

“Cardiovascular disease, which is directly related to hypertension, is preventable if it is treated early,” explained Dr Binbrek. “Clearly, at the age of 35, both males and females need to have their blood pressure check-up and biochemistry of sugar and cholesterol. Thereafter, check-up should continue but the frequency would depend on the baseline findings.”

He explained that hypertension is a symptomless disease and a so called silent killer. “... but the complications can be horrendous.”

“In short, it can cause blockages of coronary arteries to the heart causing heart attack, enlargement of the heart leading to heart failure, blockages of the arteries to the brain causing stroke, hemorrhages of the retina of the eyes leading to blindness and kidney insufficiency and failure,” he said.

In more than 95 per cent of the patients with hypertension, the cause is unknown. “... We call it essential hypertension. The remaining five per cent is due to renal disease, hormonal disease (pheochromocytoma) and congenital coarctation (narrowing) of the aorta.”

Hypertension or high blood pressure is the leading cause of fatal complications like stroke, heart failure, cardiovascular diseases and kidney failure.

Dr Wael Al Mahmeed, consultant cardiologist and President of the Gulf Heart Association, said: “High blood pressure can go undetected for years because patients do not face visible symptoms. It can only be detected through regular blood pressure monitoring. Prolonged undetected hypertension causes organ damage.”

The experts highlighted that the sedentary lifestyle of people in the UAE, combined with widespread consumption of junk food, obesity and diabetes, are the factors leading to hypertension. “If we want to reduce heart attacks, strokes, heart failures and deaths, we need to control blood pressure,” Al Mahmeed said.


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