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Why UAE residents should be aware of hypertension risks

According to a recent survey performed on both Emiratis and expats in the UAE, 44% of those polled did not perceive hypertension as potentially fatal disease, and were unaware of its symptoms. Despite this, around 30% of the population in the UAE has hypertension, but only 3-6% controls it via doctor’s visits or home measures. These findings are alarming, as in reality, hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a serious medical condition that is a major risk factor in developing multiple, often lethal, diseases.

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Hypertension at a glance

Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which a person’s blood pressure is persistently elevated. Blood pressure is expressed by two measurements: systolic and diastolic pressure.

How to read the result of your blood pressure test

120/80 mmHg – optimal
from 120 to 129 / 80-84 mmHg – normal blood pressure
from 130 to 139 / 85-89 mmHg – high than normal
from 140 to 159 / 90-99 mmHg – stage 1 hypertension
from 160 to 179 / 100-109 mmHg – stage 2 hypertension
above 180/110 mmHg – high overpressure

What causes hypertension?

Over 90 percent of hypertension patients have primary hypertension, which does not have one specific cause. It is rather a combination of various unfavorable factors such as:

  • Aging, as it causes degenerative changes in the blood vessels that can cause a pressure increase;
  • Disorders in the neurohormonal system, i.e. in the secretion of the pressure regulating substances, which are controlled by the autonomic nervous system;
  • Genetic predispositions;
  • External lifestyle factors such as diet (excess salt, fat, sugar), addictions (drinking alcohol, smoking), and stress.

Only a low percentage of patients have secondary hypertension, which is caused by disorders such as sleep apnea, adrenal gland tumors, vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, or aortic coarctation (narrowing).

Hypertension usually has no symptoms

The reason why high blood pressure is called a “silent killer” is that it’s quite a symptomless disease. Sometimes, however, the body sends warning signals that may indicate a rise in the blood pressure. One of them is the feeling of constant fatigue (this applies especially to young people), which does not give way despite rest. A sudden nosebleed that was not caused by injury, and headaches in the back of the head – known as the occipital lobe – which may be accompanied by a feeling of a stiff neck, are some other symptoms that patients with high blood pressure report.

The poll of UAE residents mentioned above revealed that almost 50% of respondents cited “not having any symptoms” as a predominant reason for not being screened. To be sure, hypertension, if left untreated, can contribute to developing other major diseases.

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Long term hypertension complications

High blood pressure is named the most important preventable risk factor for premature death worldwide, as having this condition directly contributes to a great number of diseases, many of them being cardiovascular diseases. Long-term high blood pressure is a major risk factor for a range of medical conditions including:

  • Coronary arterial disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Vision loss
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Dementia

According to the WHO, cardiovascular disease accounts for approximately 17 million deaths a year globally, and complications of hypertension account for 9.4 million deaths worldwide every year, making high blood pressure a major cause of cardiovascular mortality.

Proper management of high blood pressure and treatment lessen the impact of the disease as it relates to developing certain complications. One study shows that a reduction of blood pressure by only 5 mmHg lowers the risk of stroke by 34%, and reduces the chances of developing other complications overall.

How to prevent and treat high blood pressure

Since it’s essentially symptomless, many people don’t even realize they suffer from hypertension simply because they do not measure it. The first step towards prevention and treatment of hypertension is, therefore, regular measurement. Even slightly increased blood pressure is a warning sign, and should not be disregarded.

There are several non-pharmacological methods you can use to manage your blood pressure yourself:

  • Measure your blood pressure regularly
  • Limit sodium intake to a recommended 5g – 6g a day
  • Exercise regularly (for at least 30 minutes, 4-5 times a week). Aerobic exercises are especially recommended for patients with hypertension.
  • If overweight, reduce your weight
  • Follow a healthy, low-fat diet, and reduce alcohol consumption

Doctor’s visits are always recommended, even if you feel good, and even if your blood pressure is only slightly higher. A healthcare professional will assess your health, help to manage and reduce your blood pressure, and – in some cases – also prescribe medication. Regular check-ups and lifestyle changes are the basis of hypertension management.

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UAE medical insurance can be expensive for hypertension patients

Treating the complications of hypertension is usually expensive, as conditions caused by hypertension can require serious treatments, such as cardiac bypass surgery, carotid artery surgery, and dialysis, among other interventions. Because of this, insurers usually exclude coverage to any new client who has been diagnosed with this high blood pressure – deeming hypertension to be a pre-existing condition.

Since medical insurance companies can’t deny anyone coverage for high blood pressure or any pre-existing condition per se in the UAE, they might raise premiums or attach a waiting period of six months to people affected with hypertension as a pre-existing condition.

You can save yourself from paying high premiums, or out of pocket expenses, due to high blood pressure under two conditions: 1) you lead a healthy life and don’t develop it at all, or 2) you have developed the illness after the start date of your current medical insurance plan. If you fall under the second category, your strategy from now on should be to renew your medical insurance with the same insurer for as long as you live. Of course, this is primarily if you want to be insured for any treatments that are connected to hypertension.

A piece of UAE medical insurance advice

As with other major chronic conditions, securing a solid medical insurance plan with the intention to keep it for life is a preferred strategy for anyone who values financial stability and continuous protection. In Pacific Prime’s Guide to Obtaining Long Term Health Insurance, you will learn how to identify a good long-term plan, and obtain it, as well as when the best time to do so is.

What if you already suffer from high blood pressure and need UAE health insurance, though? Contact us and our experienced team at Pacific Prime Dubai will see what can be done.

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