‘The silent killer,’ hypertension is a common ailment for Koreans

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‘The silent killer,’ hypertension is a common ailment for Koreans


A recent publication by the National Statistical Office and the World Heath Organization said the rate of hypertension-related deaths among Koreans is double that of Japanese. About 11 of every 100,000 Koreans die of hypertension-related diseases, but for Japanese, only four or five Japanese persons die of similar diseases among 100,000 people.
The different rates can be attributed to different diets. Koreans take in an average of 2,992 kilocalories per day while Japanese take in an average 2,761 kilocalories.
According to Dr. Lim Do-sun at Korea University Anam Hospital, one reason Koreans might have a higher rate of hypertension is that they consume more salt and spices and have fewer check-ups than do Japanese. In a different study, Japanese were found to eat 15 grams (a half-ounce) of salt per day while Koreans ate 20 to 30 grams.
Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is called a “silent killer” because many hypertension patients do not show any symptoms until they are hit by brain hemorrhage, heart failure or sudden death. The absence of symptoms explains why few people are aware of the risks of hypertension.
The World Health Organization defined high blood pressure as a level exceeding 120/90 mmHg, but lowered the criterion to 120/80 mmHg in 2003. Samsung Medical Center said that according to the 120/80 mmHg standard, only half of the 25,621 people it tested were healthy.
Although one’s blood pressure rises and falls, those with hypertension always have high pressure. It is often detected when testing for other diseases, such as diabetes or malfunctioning kidneys.
Hypertension can be hereditary. According to Dr. Song Bong-geun, a doctor of traditional medicine at Wonkwang University Hospital, if parents have high blood pressure, their children have a 90-percent chance of developing hypertension. If one parent has the disease, the chance is 40 to 50 percent.
The older one is, the higher the risk of hypertension. Men are also more at risk than women.
Though traditional medicine had no term for high blood pressure, doctors did catalogue its symptoms. According to Dr. Song, symptoms can include a stiff neck, headache, dizziness, trembling hands, bloodshot eyes, ringing ears, flushed face, shortage of breath and slowed senses.
If high blood pressure is left untreated, it can be dangerous. Park Ki-won of SeoJung Medicine, a traditional medicine clinic, said high blood pressure could be easily prevented by improving eating habits.
People should drink a lot of water when they work up a sweat, particular in summer. When people lose water through sweat, their blood thickens, which can lead to blood clots that in turn can cause cardiac failure.
Hypertension-related deaths most frequently occur in January and February, because blood vessels tend to contract in the winter. People with high blood pressure, however, can have an attack at any time.
Hands and feet should be kept warm. Having cold hands can raise one’s blood pressure throughout the body. Hypertension patients need to be careful when getting up in the morning, due to the sudden drop in temperature once they toss off their blankets. They should also avoid exercising in cold mornings.
Exercising helps ease high blood pressure, but doing heavy exercise after not having worked out for a long time can be even more dangerous. It’s better to slowly increase one’s everyday activity. People should exercise at least three times a week for more than 30 minutes at a time. Stop if you feel pain in your heart, dizziness or cold sweats. The best workout is walking. Try to walk more by getting off buses earlier or taking stairs instead of elevators.
The most important thing is peace of mind. Forgiveness can actually enhance one’s health. According to a study of 1,500 people by Michigan University, people who are more forgiving are more peaceful.
“There’s something called the ‘physiology of forgiveness.’ Being unable to forgive other people’s faults is harmful to one’s health,” said Herbert Benson, a Harvard University researcher.

by Limb Jae-un
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