23 September 2011
Hypertension is a common health problem in Hong Kong as well as the rest of the world. According to the population health survey 2003-2004 carried out by the Hong Kong Department of Health, 27% of the population aged 15 or above has hypertension. The percentage increased to 73% for those aged 75 or above.
The main health hazard lies in the complications of hypertension, namely: stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. With timely treatment of hypertension, the complications can be prevented or reduced.
Treatment of hypertension includes life style changes like stopping smoking, regular exercise and a healthy diet. Medications will be needed if the treatment goal is not reached despite all those measures. Scientific research by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute in USA showed that a diet rich in certain nutrients could prevent or reduce hypertension. This diet is called the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). A person should take a diet rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium and high in fruits, vegetables & low fat dairy foods, and also rich in fiber. The diet should also be high in whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts while being low in fat and red meat content, sweets and sugar-containing drinks. The diet reduced systolic blood pressure by 6 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg in patients with normal blood pressure. Those with hypertension dropped by 11 mm Hg and 6 mm Hg respectively. In addition to its effect on blood pressure, it is considered a well-balanced approach to eating for the general public. If combined with salt (sodium) restriction, the blood pressure lowering effect is further enhanced.
People in Hong Kong is taking too little fruits and vegetables but too much salt. The WHO recommended a salt intake of less than 5 g/day (about one teaspoonful). According to surveys conducted by the Faculty of Medicine of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the salt intake in Hong Kong people was much higher and on the rise. In healthy adults, the average salt intake increased from 8.0 g/day during 1989-1991 to 9.4 g/day during 1996-1998 and 9.9 g/day during 2000-2002. Following an increase in dietary salt intake, the kidney normally synthesizes dopamine to increase salt excretion blood vessel relaxation. This dopamine response is not seen in Chinese. Thus Chinese are prone to dietary salt-induced hypertension.
People should take care of their own health. Apart from regular exercise, one should adopt healthy eating habit. A nutritious diet is not expensive and it can be delicious. The Hong Kong Medical Association, in conjunction with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Hong Kong Baptist Hospital and the Hong Kong Nephrology group, has designed a set of Chinese DASH recipes. They can be downloaded from the HKMA website http://www.hkma.org/DASH/index-e.htm or www.kidney.hk/DASH. The video can be seen at www.facebook.com/DASH4HK. Dr. Alvin Y. S. CHAN, Vice-President of HKMA, composed a theme song titled "Healthy Ways of Eating" for DASH diet.
Although the DASH diet can prevent or reduce hypertension and hence protect the kidneys, for those patients with significant kidney failure, they might not be able to excrete the potassium and the DASH may need to be modified. Such patients should consult their own doctors.
Notes to editors:
The Hong Kong Medical Association, founded in 1920, aims to bring together Hong Kong's government, institutional, university and private medical practitioners for an effective exchange of views and co-ordination of efforts. The foremost objective of the Association is to safeguard and promote public health. The Association speaks collectively for its members and aims to keep its members abreast of medical ethics, issues and advances around the world. In fulfilling these goals, the association hopes to better serve the people of Hong Kong.
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