Hypertensive Pinoys urged to use devices to monitor blood pressure at home

By Rafi Koteh

For World Hypertension Day, the Philippine Heart Association (PHA), the Philippine Society of Hypertension (PSH), and pharmaceutical firm Pfizer are collaborating to promote hypertension prevention, detection, and control among Filipinos by monitoring their blood pressure at home.

Photo shows officials from the Philippine Heart Association (PHA), the Philippine Society of Hypertension (PSH), and Pfizer during the press event

Dr. Jorge Sison, president of the PHA, spoke at the press conference on Friday, May 25, where he stated that hypertension is now the leading cause of death globally. “And it doesn’t spare anyone,” he said, adding that unmanaged hypertension can lead to complications like heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, and stroke.

This usually asymptomatic disease, however, can often go unmonitored and uncontrolled. In a local study published in 2013 and sponsored by Pfizer, it was observed that one out of every three to four Filipinos 18 years and above is considered hypertensive.

It was also seen in this study that, despite a high treatment rate of 75% among diagnosed adult patients, only 27% of those diagnosed had adequate blood pressure control. “What’s happening now is that only 27% is protected,” Sison said. “73% are at risk of death or damage.”

This point is where Home Blood Pressure Monitoring (HBPM) comes in. Patients can check their own blood pressure through the use of Oscillometric measurement devices. These devices are composed of an electronic pressure sensor, usually in the form of an arm cuff, that will display an individual’s blood pressure.

By applying HBPM, patients would help doctors gain a better understanding of their blood pressure patterns. HBPM readings are considered more reliable because they are taken in an environment where patients are relaxed and exposed to their daily activities as compared to clinic recordings.

Moreover, Sison mentioned that blood pressure tends to spike during the early mornings before doctor’s clinics open. The “blood pressure morning surge” often leads to complications such as heart attack and stroke. By conducting HBPM after waking up in the morning, “this can better predict prognosis of complications,” he added.

Several other doctors who attended the event also brought up the increasing incidents of hypertension in children. They encourage patients to practice HBPM among all family members.

To address patient’s uncertainty about the accuracy of the HBPM readings, doctors during the event recommended buying only the brands for blood pressure measurement devices recommended and validated by the American Heart Association and PSH.

Dr. Bimbo Diaz from the PSH also added. “It is important to emphasize people empowerment on hypertension, as well as to how to measure the blood pressure properly and correctly.”

There are several guidelines about how to properly conduct HBPM:

• Don’t smoke, drink caffeinated beverages, or exercise within 30 minutes of measurement. Rest for at least 2 minutes before taking the blood pressure.

• Sit with back straight and feet flat on the floor with legs uncrossed. The test arm should be on a fat surface at heart level. The cuff should be placed snugly around the arm. Make sure that there’s no item of clothing in between arm and the cuff.

• Take 2-3 readings one minute apart and do it twice each day (mornings and evenings). Morning measurements must be taken within 1 hour of waking up, after urination, and before taking breakfast and/or medications. Evening measurements, meanwhile, must be taken before going to bed. Record all results and bring to your doctor on next follow up.

“We discovered that working together, we are able to more or less realize our objective of improving awareness, improving control of blood pressure in the Philippines,” said Dr. Alberto Atilano, president of the PSH, who also spoke at the event

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