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Heart Meds

"Diagnosing and managing hypertension"
By: Mel Mordeno Beluan, MDHeart Meds

“My doctor told me to continue my meds to keep my blood pressure in check, but I’m just drinking pineapple juice, and I’ve never been better.”

Got full-blown hypertension? Yes? If you were the one saying the above, then that’s the problem. Fact is, drinking pineapple juice doesn’t cure you of hypertension. Once you have full-blown hypertension, you always have hypertension. You can’t escape it but you can control it. Medication helps you do. Doctor-prescribed medication, that is.

Now the trouble with hypertension (high blood or alta presyon in Filipino slang) is it’s like the ultimate ninja. Some people may feel headache or dizziness for the slightest blood pressure (BP) increase—and good for them; these symptoms signal them to rest and seek medical attention. But for the majority of those with hypertension, there are no symptoms at all.  Meaning, there are no warning signs of impending doom (at most, many chuck it to pasma, a Filipino folk term for some unspecified illness).

The answer is that the surest way to test if you have hypertension is to have your BP taken regularly; the frequency depends on your risk factors. Some forms of BP increase, such as the one caused by exercise, is a normal transient response by your body (the so-called physiological BP response), but if, for example, your BP is consistently elevated even during rest, or if exercise shoots your BP abnormally up (e.g., BP that’s too high for comfort), your doctor can suspect a case of hypertension.

And when he does, he might examine you for contributing risk factors. That’s the reason he (1) asks you questions, (2) physically examines you, and (3) requests you to have laboratory tests. The lab tests are done in order to gain insight into the status of your blood, heart, cholesterol levels, kidney, etc. This way, your doctor can assess if you should be started on medicines that are effective and safe for you.  The lab tests may include complete blood count (CBC), fasting blood sugar (FBS), lipid profile, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, urinalysis, ECG, and chest x-ray, among others.

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