St Lucians are being encouraged to stick to their prescribed medication when treating high blood pressure.
The advice is coming from Doctor Lisa Fleischer – a Family Practice doctor from the United States. Dr. Fleischer has been a volunteer serving at St Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort over the last fifteen years.
According to Dr. Fleischer, patients sometimes do not take their High Blood Pressure medications on the day that they see the doctor. This may be because they have run out of medication or because they believe that they shouldn’t take them if they are seeing the doctor or having lab tests.
“This is a problem because the doctor won’t know if the medication is effective. Often the doctor then adds more drugs on the false assumption that the previous medications were not working,” Dr. Fleischer said.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the leading causes of death and disability in St Lucia.
Most people do not feel sick from High Blood Pressure; but damage is occurring. Hypertension damages blood vessels particularly in sensitive organs like the kidneys, brain and eyes.
The heart also has to work overly hard under elevated pressure and fails prematurely. The ultimate result is diseases like congestive heart failure, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and even death.
Fortunately, there is effective treatment for high blood pressure.
Lifestyle changes are the first step and include: daily exercise (such as a 30 minute walk), a diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, salt restriction (<2 grams/d), avoidance of toxic habits like smoking, limiting alcohol consumption.
Medication is usually necessary if Blood Pressure is > 140/90. There are many options, but none of them cure the disease. They all must be taken daily (sometimes multiple times per day).
To avoid inaccurate blood pressure results, Dr. Fleischer recommends that patients refill their medication one week before it is finished.
Blood pressure medication can be taken with water prior to the appointment even if fasting lab work is expected. Blood pressure monitoring at home or through a pharmacy or Health Center can be helpful for routine checks and when hypertension is not well controlled.
Successful treatment of high blood pressure has been proven to extend life and improve health.