I know the hustle is real and we are all very busy, but I want to bring something to our attention. As a doctor, I have noticed that the disease spectrum is tilting towards non-communicable diseases. Those of you who follow my articles know that I have been stressing the rise in non-communicable diseases, their complications and how we lack the capacity to cater to the complications of these non-communicable diseases. My job is to sensitize folks on lifestyle changes that can help to prevent these communicable diseases as much as we can, and then reduce their complications by managing them closely. One of the ways to do this is by alerting people of possible complications.
Patient care is a collaborative effort between patients, their families, and healthcare professionals. As millennials, it is very important to be involved in our loved ones’ health. My emphasis on this article is on the older folks.
Wait! I know you are wondering why I want to compound your problems, but I’ve noticed that patients who have strong support from families and have good family involvement in their health tend to do well. Chronic diseases have a lot of complications and it is important to hold older folks accountable regarding their health, know red flags that need urgent attention, make sure they are compliant with their medications and that they are up to date with their hospital appointments.
Just to streamline things as much as I can, I will focus on one condition that is so common and has a lot of complications – Hypertension or High Blood Pressure.
High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure or hypertension is very common in our society and it has no symptoms. Having your blood pressure under control has a lot of good effects. Uncontrolled blood pressure has serious detrimental effects on health such as heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, heart attacks, memory loss… the list is endless.
Some false things that are common in our society about hypertension that you can help debunk are:
They can only take their medications when they feel ‘’their BP is rising’’
That is totally false as hypertension has no symptoms. It is a chronic disease that can be managed. At this point, it is important for me to add that there are two types of hypertension: primary or essential hypertension and secondary hypertension. Secondary hypertension means there is another condition causing the hypertension and this is the case in about 10% of hypertension cases. In this instance, the hypertension will be resolved when the condition causing it is duly tackled.
The more common type of hypertension is primary or “essential” hypertension. This can be managed but has no cure, as we are unable to pinpoint what is causing it. A good diet, lifestyle modification, and adequate drug compliance will help reduce the complications of high blood pressure to the barest minimum. So adherence to blood pressure medications is a lifelong affair. It is a difficult pill to swallow but it is the truth. Medication doses can be adjusted by the physician but they cannot just be stopped and started whenever the patient feels like. Having a poorly controlled blood pressure is bad.
A special concoction ‘I heard of that cured my friend of high blood pressure’’
This is obviously false. The risk of taking unknown herbal preparation is that you don’t know the chemical components in such preparations. You don’t know how these compounds interact with one another and the effect it has on your kidneys and liver. Some of these herbal preparations have a host of chemicals that are toxic to your body and we see patients coming down with all sorts of problems from the concoction and the complications of uncontrolled hypertension.
“It is an arrow, and it is not my portion”
I have to be very careful with this one because we are very religious. Absorbing the news of a diagnosis of a chronic illness can be very difficult. There can be a period of denial – which is understandable, but you have to understand that wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and doing it. Taking medications does not make you less of a religious person.
This also has absolutely nothing to do with illiteracy. You will be shocked that even very highly educated people will be coming down with complications of poorly controlled high blood pressure because they have refused to take medications because of their religious beliefs.
Finally, prevention is better than cure! Managing the complications of chronic illnesses can be very expensive and with the current out-of-pocket care in our healthcare system, getting good treatment for these illnesses is very costly.
I would love to hear from you, are you very involved in the health of your older loved ones? How do you hold them accountable regarding their health? Please share your experiences.