The silent killer is the nickname given to the medical condition known as hypertension. Dr. Conville Brown, Cardiologist at the Bahamas Heart Centre says that although people commonly call it ‘high blood pressure’ it’s important to note that it becomes hypertension when blood pressure is elevated and maintained in the long term above the levels of 120/80 on the pressure scale. “If your pressure persistently hangs a rail above that level one of the things for sure that happens is that you increase your risk of developing organ damage in multiple systems in your body.”
He says hypertension also leads to eye damage, brain damage, strokes, heart failure and other organ failure adding to the rate of patients that must go on dialysis. Age and genetics are also potential risk factors in developing hypertension. Brown who has worked in the field for several decades assesses that as much as 1/3 of the country’s population might be at risk for developing cardiovascular-related conditions. “Do we know the exact numbers in the Bahamas? No. You’d pretty much have to measure a significant percentage of the population but what we do know is that easily 1 in 3 people that’s 1/3 of the population will have high blood pressure.”
The cardiologist says that lifestyle plays an even more important role. Most importantly the foods we eat, salt intake and lack of exercise lead to other conditions that make the environment ripe for the silent killer to creep in. “The Bahamas is one of the most obese countries in the world even amongst the Caribbean. So obesity will contribute to your development of hypertension and diabetes and arthritis and a whole list of things including cancer” he said..
“A lot of these things we can avoid by improving our lifestyle our exercise profile what we eat and so forth so if we want to eat a fatty high carbohydrate, high cholesterol, high salt diet, well then we are begging to develop high blood pressure even if we do not have the genetic predisposition.” Brown explains that altering diets, incorporating exercise and going for annual medical checkups will help; stressing that each person must take responsibility for their health. “The most important thing that people need to do is learn about themselves and their health they are to know if they are getting well or if they are getting into trouble – that’s the purpose of your general physical exam in the first place” he said. “And if you don’t have a private physician you don’t need one that’s why we have clinics. But you have to take an interest in yourself and in your health if not for you, for your family.”