This article first appeared in the medical column “Ask-the-Doc” in the World Journal
Hypertension (high blood pressure) increases the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. Chronic hypertension can damage arterial walls, resulting in hardening of the arteries leading to obstruction of flow to the heart, kidney, extremities, and the brain. Healthy arteries are resilient and elastic, with smooth arterial walls and unobstructed blood flow to supply nutrients and oxygen to organs and tissues. However, if hypertension is not well controlled over extended periods, an arterial wall that is weakened can develop irregular thickness, or in some cases, extend outward and form an aneurysm. Internal bleeding or even death can occur if an aneurysm bursts.
It is estimated that seventy million Americans suffer from hypertension. This means that every one in three people has hypertension. Yet only half of those with hypertension have well controlled blood pressure. And blood pressure control is significantly lower in Chinese when compared to other ethnicities.
Another problem for Chinese patients other than poorly controlled blood pressure is that many will adjust their own dosage. Some think that because their blood pressure is now lower, they can reduce the amount of medication they take. This actually leads to increased risk.
Dr. Jane Lombard, a cardiologist, points out that many people think that hypertension is a disease of the elderly. But the truth is that it can occur at any age. Of course, the proportion of those with hypertension does increase with age. For example, 54% of all Americans between the age 55 and 64 have hypertension.
“Hypertension can be controlled by both diet and medication,” says Dr. Lombard. However, Dr. Lombard stressed that patients must take medications according to their doctors’ instructions, and should not adjust or stop taking medications on their own. This is because inconsistent medication usage or suddenly stopping medication can cause fluctuations in blood pressure that pose an even greater risk to the body.
There can also be drug interactions. For example, cold and cough medications, oral contraceptives, and asthma medications can all interact with hypertension medication. Therefore, it is important to check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to starting any new medication. Those who take Chinese herbs should be cautious as well. Although some Chinese herbs are known to interact with Western medication, most Chinese medicine includes multiple herbs, and the combined effect is different from that of a single herb. Patients should always consult an experienced Chinese herbal medicine doctor to ensure safety while undergoing treatment for hypertension.
“Hypertension medication is personalized, so please don’t take other people’s medication,” says Dr. Lombard. “Every patient’s medication is prescribed based on that patient’s specific presentation. To avoid fluctuations in blood pressure and increasing danger to themselves, patients should never take another person’s medication.”
Doctor’s Profile: Dr. Jane Lombard is a cardiologist born in Taiwan and raised in Africa. She received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine with a specialty in Cardiovascular Disease. Dr. Lombard completed her residency at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and Fellowship in Cardiovascular Disease at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center. She joined El Camino Hospital in 2000. Dr. Lombard speaks Chinese (Mandarin), English, Spanish.
Monday, April 25, 2016
by Richard Lee
This article first appeared in the World Journal and the Fall 2016 issue of Chinese Health Initiative Wellness eNewsletter. Learn more about the Chinese Health Initiative.