|Beware of silent killer||Jun. 4, 2005|
|Written by: DR. GIFFORD JONES|
We all know that serious consequences can result when a tire blows. However today most people have little knowledge of human blow-outs -- the fatal strokes that kill or paralyze people with little or no warning. Moreover, many people at high risk are not taking Aspirin, which can often prevent this tragedy.
A recent survey showed that 50% of Canadians 35 and older were unable to describe a stroke. Forty-eight percent could not identify a symptom of stroke, 19% did not know that high blood pressure was the most critical factor, and only 36% would seek emergency help if they were experiencing symptoms.
Normal blood pressure is 120/80. The upper figure, the systolic pressure, is the force at which blood is pumped from the heart. The lower amount is the diastolic or resting pressure between heart beats. Hypertension starts when the pressure reaches 140/100, but some cardiologists believe the onset of hypertension starts lower than that.
It's been said "societies get the blood pressure they deserve." It appears that we deserve a lot.
It's estimated that 75 million adult North Americans have hypertension. What is more frightening is that doctors are now seeing hypertension in children.
So how do we get it? Sir Willam Osler, one of the world's greatest doctors, commented that it was good to be born with "good rubber." He was referring to genetically good arteries that were soft and springy. As we age, atherosclerosis causes hard, less pliable arteries that trigger hypertension. But since we cannot choose our parents, what is the best way to guard against stroke?
First, make it a habit to get an annual physical examination. This will detect "silent hypertension" in its early stages long before high blood pressure causes symptoms. Unfortunately many cases of hypertension go undiagnosed when all that's needed is a blood pressure cuff.
In 2005, since so many people have faulty habits, the doctor's first prescription may be a "lifestyle" one, to stop smoking. Tobacco constricts blood vessels and increases heart rate, adding insult to injury.
Being overweight contributes to hypertension. The prime culprit is abdominal fat. This fat destroys nitric acid that, in normal amounts, helps arteries relax.
Hypertension can be helped by regular exercise. Studies show that hypertension was 20%-40% lower in individuals who participated in five hours of sports each week during their college years. Relaxation techniques such as yoga also lower blood pressure.
PINCH OF SALT
Be prudent about salt. We need only a pinch of salt daily yet most people consume three teaspoons a day. Newfoundland belongs to the salt belt. Islanders there eat more salt, have three times as much hypertension and three times the number of strokes.
If lifestyle measures fail, doctors have a variety of medicines to combat hypertension. Unfortunately, these drugs often have side effects and frequently patients discontinue the medication because of them.
Since most strokes are due to the formation of a blood clot it's important to add oil to the blood. Aspirin, often called the wonder drug of the century, keeps small particles in the blood, platelets, from sticking together to form a brain clot that may cause death or a paralyzing stroke.
It's ironic that diabetic and hypertensive patients who are more prone to clots are often the ones who are not taking Aspirin. Moreover, Aspirin decreases the risk of another stroke in those who have already had one. In fact, today there's ample evidence that, at age 50, a daily 8I milligram enteric-coated Aspirin can prevent several other medical problems.
Prior to a major stroke some people have transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Patients complain of a loss of vision or numbness that lasts a few seconds. The use of Aspirin can decrease the risk of a TIA developing into a major stroke.
Remember when a "brain attack" occurs it's just as important to get immediate medical attention as when a coronary attack strikes.
So be sure to go to the nearest hospital if you experience sudden numbness of the face, hands, one or both sides of the body, trouble speaking, loss of vision, dizziness, loss of balance or sudden severe headache. The speedy use of anticoagulant drugs can help to limit the degree of paralysis and other symptoms.
|MORE COLUMNS BY DR. GIFFORD JONES|