PHA: Hypertension Bigger Pandemic in Philippines; 37% Adults, 5% Adolescents Hypertensive

The PHA emphasized the benefits of making the PHA 52100 (5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily; not more than 2 hours video time/not more than 2gms of added salt daily; 1 hour of physical activity daily; 0 sugared drinks and 0 smoking) a regular habit.


Hypertension prevalent in among Filipinos.
All images are screenshot by SDN — Science & Digital News from Philippine Heart Association (PHA) media briefing.

Guest author:

  • GYNNA P. GAGELONIA, Communications Manager/Managing Editor/Headwriter, MyHeart.Ph, Philippine Heart Association (PHA)

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Heartless, the hypertension menace has stealthily crept into the midst of the unsuspecting and the vulnerable populations even in the midst of the Covid-19 scare.

Hypertensive patients are getting younger. Hypertension is no longer a disease of the rich and the old. It has traversed generations and genders as well as socio-economic levels.

While the Filipinos are gearing up to beat the pandemic, hypertension, the silent killer, has continued to prey on 37% adults (aged 18 and above) and 5% percent adolescents (aged 12 to 18) out of 111 million Filipinos. Regions 1, 2 and 6 had the highest prevalence.

These alarming statistics were culled from the results of the PRESYON-4 Nationwide Hypertension Survey conducted by the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) Council on Hypertension; and announced at a press briefing via Zoom and Facebook on June 16, 2021.

Dr. Jorge Sison, leader of the Presyon 4 study (and previous Presyon 1-3 studies), presented the study’s alarming findings. He is a past PHA president and chair of the PHA Council on Hypertension.

Dr. Jorge Sison of PHA reveals result of hypertension survey.
Dr. Jorge Sison of PHA.

The rest of the panelists were: Drs. Orlando Bugarin, PHA president; Aurelia Leus, past PHA president; Roberta Cawed-Mende, chair of the PHA Council on Hypertension; and Don Robespierre Reyes, editor in chief, PHA MyHeart.Ph, and broadcast journalist Jing Castaneda. Thirty media people covered the reveal.

Hypertension 6th cause of death in Philippines

Joining the PHA’s team of allies is the Department of Health (DOH), represented by Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho from the Disease Prevention & Control Bureau.

Based on the DOH prevalence data Ho presented, hypertension, a non-communicable disease (NCD), is the number six cause of death in the Philippines. She acknowledged that “NCDs are now afflicting even the poor communities around the country. It is no longer a disease of the rich or the upper class. It has affected even the poorest municipalities.

Among the major milestones of the DOH NCD programs are the smoking cessation programs. Tobacco smoking is a risk factor for hypertension.

She also stressed that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law provides for an increase in taxes for cigarette and sugar-sweetened beverages that will support the DOH programs on the promotion of healthy lifestyle and the prevention and control of NCDs. The law also supports the initiatives of the DOH on lowering the prices of medicines by exempting from the 12% VAT all medicines used for diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, Ho said.

The fight against hypertension is a collaboration among partners from government, the private sector and non-government organizations.

Dr. Cawed-Mende of PHA on hypertension.
Dr. Roberta “Bob” Cawed-Mende of PHA.

Presyon-4 Survey, conducted from January to April 2021, was made possible through a Continuing Medical Education/Research Grant from Corbridge Philippines.

Through the years, the PHA and the DOH have been potent partners in the Healthy Lifestyle and NCD campaigns.

Since hypertension is hereditary and lifestyle-induced, the doctors stressed the value of awareness, the right attitude, early prevention and intervention. Most of all confronting hypertension entails team work, the doctors said

Its trigger factors are race, genetic, obesity, inactivity, smoking, sodium-rich diet, and diabetes and poor lifestyle.

Sison said that “60 percent of my relatively young patients who are suffering from hypertension have hypertensive parents. Most likely, people who are on the heavy side and obese are doubly susceptible to hypertension.

He also added that “hypertension is a cardiovascular condition that needs to be seriously managed, otherwise you are a walking time bomb. You can drop dead anytime.”

“Healthy lifestyle should be a family affair or business. In the case of the 12 to 18 year old patients, treatment/, treatment/management requires the involvement of the parents, older sibling and the caregiver or yaya”, Leus, a pediatric cardiologist who sub-specializes in cardiac catheterization, pointed out.

Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho of DOH on NCDs.
Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho of DOH.

Doctors and medicines can only do so much. The home should be a “healing” hub and a prolific training ground for healthy habits.

According to Bugarin, “even in the case of the older or the adult hypertensive patients, every family member should take part in the management process. Everyone should practice a healthy lifestyle. It is a collaboration but the elder members of the family should be role models.”

Once hypertensive, always hypertensive

“Health should be a priority. Nothing should get in the way of your health journey or road to recovery. Most patients have the tendency to forego their follow-up appointments and the pandemic became a stumbling block in their check-ups and other laboratory tests. This is one of the reasons that contributed to the rise in the prevalence of hypertension cases,” said Mende.

The home quarantine has brought families closer and converted their kitchen and sala into 24/7 cyber cafés-cum-offices. But it has its downside. The work-from-home and online education set-up resulted in an increase number of couch potatoes, people with sit-down lifestyle, and people who are into stress cooking and stress eating.

“The lockdown may have challenged everyone’s creativity but the downside is the culture of endless home cooking and eating at home amid pandemic is breeding more problems,” warned Reyes.

Leus added that an obese teen, who has a high-fat diet, lacks exercise and smokes is courting disaster. Ideally, he/she has to see his/her pediatrician at least once a year.

The PHA and its allies waged an all-out war against hypertension, the bigger pandemic.

Family business

Parents should take an active role in their children’s health. One thing that parents can do to put hypertension at bay is to inculcate in their young minds that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. They should be introduced to healthy eating and a sporty or an active lifestyle –wholesome practices that should be part of their regular routine.

Comfort food which is salt- sugar- and cholesterol-laden is okay to an extent but should be consumed in moderation. It is addicting; thus, parents have to put their foot down.

The PHA emphasized the benefits of making the PHA 52100 (5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily; not more than 2 hours video time/not more than 2gms of added salt daily; 1 hour of physical activity daily; 0 sugared drinks and 0 smoking) a regular habit.

Parents must set a good example not just to their children but to the adult members of the family who are hypertensive by not serving sinful dishes/foods and keeping convenience foods in the pantry.

What is hypertension and it it lethal?

Hypertension (HPN) or high blood pressure (BP) means having BP that is beyond normal. The new BP cut-off is 130/80.

When someone has hypertension, the heart (which pumps blood to the vessels and all body parts) will work doubly hard. In doing so, the arteries (veins carrying blood away from the heart) would harden up thus a stroke could happen. Other effects of unmanaged HBP could lead to kidney problems and eventually, heart failure.

Hypertension can have damaging effects on many organs including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, brain and kidneys.

High blood pressure is a disease affecting most Filipinos and it often leads to early death even without prior symptoms. A new research also shows that people with high blood or hypertension may be more likely to be hospitalized and become severely ill with the virus that causes Covid-19. (✓)

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