This month, everyone can be part of a nationwide activity that can hopefully save 30,000 Filipinos annually, over five years, from premature deaths due to complications of hypertension. Among the lives you may save could be your own and those of your loved ones.
Improve awareness of high blood pressure (BP), institute population-directed interventions, like reducing salt content in processed foods, and convince all diagnosed hypertensive individuals about the life-saving importance of adequate and sustained treatment of high BP.
This is easier said than done, but each of us can be a BP advocate and convince ourselves, our family and friends to have their BP checked. And if found to be hypertensive, they should make lifestyle changes, like eating less processed foods and instant meals, and taking our medicines like our lives depended on them, because, truly, they do.
Shortness of breath
J.M. was a successful 56-year-old businessman whom we first checked five years ago for shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with high BP at age 35, and was prescribed medications to control his BP.
But because he did not have any symptoms, he decided not to take them. He argued that the medicines made him feel worse because of the side effects. Worse, he continued smoking and his unhealthy lifestyle.
He was so busy with his businesses that his health was no priority. A month before he saw a heart doctor, he was getting tired more easily and experienced shortness of breath when climbing the stairs. He thought it was just due to work and lack of sleep.
The symptoms became more progressive. He woke up in the middle of the night, feeling like he was drowning (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea). He needed several pillows to prop him up in bed to feel more comfortable (orthopnea). His wife decided to bring him to the emergency room.
His heart was already failing (congestive heart failure) because of excess fluid in the lungs. His electrocardiogram (ECG) showed that he had already suffered two heart attacks, and the echocardiogram (similar to an ultrasound) showed he had a markedly enlarged heart, with the muscles hardly beating sufficiently to pump blood.
This explained why his BP was on the low side despite his hypertension. This paradox of low BP in someone with hypertension happens when the heart goes into severe congestive failure.
He was bailed out of his heart failure and felt better, such that he was able to resume work after several weeks.
But we warned his family that he was a walking time bomb, and there was no way to predict when he would have his next serious episode—either due to heart failure or life-threatening irregular heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation) from which he might not recover.
It happened again before last Christmas. He didn’t make it to his 61st birthday.
It is because of patients like J.M. that we must ensure that everyone in the family is protected from this number one killer in the Philippines and worldwide.
It is estimated that around 120,000 Filipinos die annually due to complications related to elevated BP. The long-term goal is to reduce this number by 25 percent and save at least 30,000 Filipino hypertensives every year.
To drum up awareness on hypertension, the International Society of Hypertension, World Hypertension League, Philippine Heart Association and the Philippine Society of Hypertension are doing a nationwide BP screening in May, which is called May Measurement Month 2017 (MMM17).
All doctors, nurses, health advocates and people who know how to check BP using available devices can help by conducting screening sites in their communities.
It contains everything we need to know on how to conduct MMM17: How to organize an MMM17 site; how to manage our sites; how to use the special app to gather the data and transmit it (if WiFi is available).
If WiFi is not available, ISH has prepared an Excel form (available also in the website) which can be used to record data manually using computers, laptops and iPads.
The link to the MMM17 App is https://www.research.net/r/ MayMeasure.
Since this is a concerted global undertaking, we must indicate our site identification (ID)—country code (Ph 63), area code, and whether urban (U) or rural (R ) area. So, in Metro Manila, the site ID is Ph 63-2-U.
A kick-off ceremony for MMM17 will be held on May 4 at the Manila City Hall, with Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial checking the BP of Manila City Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada.
The photos will be posted on the international website of MMM17. Hollywood actors and other international celebrities are doing the same to help stem the tide of hypertension worldwide.