High blood pressure is a silent killer

​​High blood pressure or hypertension is a silent killer that increases your risk of stroke, heart disease and other serious health complications if left unchecked.

Most people with high blood pressure feel normal (have no headaches or tightness in the neck, etc), even when their blood pressure is moderately high. Thus, many are not even aware that they have hypertension.

"This is why you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year, and more frequently if you are on medication," says Dr Ian Phoon, Associate Consultant, SingHealth Polyclinics, a member of the SingHealth group.

High blood pressure in Singapore

Blood pressure measures how hard the heart has to work to pump blood through the arteries. ​According to the Health Promotion Board, high blood pressure affects more than half of Singaporeans aged 60 to 69 and one in five aged 18 to 69. You have hypertension if your blood pressure reading is 140/90 mmHg or higher in the clinic.

If you have a home blood pressure set, you should check your blood pressure regularly, and record it. Blood pressure varies throughout the day, and taking your pressure at different times will allow your doctor to see your average blood pressure. Show this record to your doctor at each visit.

10 complications arising from high blood pressure

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Here are 10 health reasons to keep your blood pressure under control:

  1. High blood ​pressure can damage your arteries
    High blood pressure exerts extra force on the artery walls. Over time, it can damage your arteries (blood vessels) and make them more susceptible to plaque (fatty deposits) buildup, a condition called arterosclerosis. The hardened and narrowed arteries will disrupt blood flow to various organs in the body. Think of it as a clogged sink.
  2. High blood pressure can cause heart disease
    Atherosclerosis causes arteries of the heart to thicken, blocking blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscles. You may experience chest pains or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).​ A heart attack occurs when bloo​d clots completely block oxygen supply to the heart muscles. One out of three deaths in Singapore in 2011 was due to heart disease or stroke.
  3. High blood pressure can damage your brain cells
    Blood clots may cut oxygen supply to the brain cells. This causes the brain cells to die and stroke or dementia to occur. The bursting of arteries in the brain may cause bleeding in the brain, resulting in a stroke.
  4. High blood pre​ssure can affect your eyesight
    Uncontrolled high blood pressure causes the blood vessels in the eye to thicken and narrow, disrupting blood supply to the retina (the light-sensitive part of your eye – like a camera “film”). Blurred vision can result. The retinal veins may burst and cause bleeding in the eye. If blood pressure remains untreated, these conditions, known as hypertensive retinopathy, can lead to total vision loss.

See the ​next page for more health issues caused by high blood pressure.​

Ref: S13