At a two-day symposium on hypertension held in Dubai recently, leading cardiologists agreed that the condition goes undetected for years due to lack of visible symptoms. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Hypertension, the silent killer, is rampant among Emiratis, but can easily be tackled with greater awareness and early intervention, a Dubai Health Authority (DHA) survey has revealed.

About 40.8 per cent of Emirati adults aged between 35 to 70 years have hypertension, the survey conducted last year said. This matches the global occurrence of the disease.

In a two-day symposium on hypertension organised by Novartis and held last week in Dubai, leading cardiologists discussed how the condition goes undetected for years due to lack of visible symptoms and how effective intervention could help control and even prevent the disease.

According to World Health Organisation statistics, one in three people globally is affected by hypertension and it is the cause of approximately 9.4 million deaths annually worldwide.

Discussing the etiology (the study of causation) and prognosis of the condition, Dr Afzal Hussain Yousuf Ali, consultant cardiologist at DHA, said: “In most cases, hypertension happens due to lifestyle rather than genetics.

Changing habits

“Hypertension can be prevented and treated early by non-pharmacological methods like taking less salt, increasing physical activity, increasing fruit and vegetables [five to eight times] in daily diet. Most hypertension is due to lifestyle rather than genetics. Only a small percentage is due to diseases of the kidney and adrenal glands.”

Dr Azan Bin Braik, another consultant cardiologist at DHA, pointed out that research to isolate genetic factors for hypertension was still ongoing.

“Hypertension tends to run in families but we have not yet worked out the genetic aspect of the condition. It is likely that there are many genes [that] are responsible in causation of hypertension. However, regulating one’s lifestyle does play an important role in controlling the condition.

Dr Yousuf Ali seconded that opinion.  “Hypertension can be controlled more than 90 per cent of the time by using lifestyle changes ... Lifestyle changes alone can be very effective if followed diligently,  especially in early stages, but an individual will need medication plus lifestyle changes in more severe and chronic cases,” he said.
Both cardiologists advised a stringent health regimen. “A healthy lifestyle would mean weight reduction, regular exercise, reduction of salt and alcohol intake,” Dr Bin Braik said.

Furthermore, giving up smoking, control of diabetes and high cholesterol are very important in reducing cardiovascular events, although they do not directly cause hypertension.

Usually every kilo of weight lost would lower the systolic blood pressure by 1 or 2mmHg. For example, if the systolic blood pressure is 160mmHg, by reducing 5kg one may lower the pressure to between 150-155mmHg.