Is scorching heat making you hotheaded? Keep cool

MANILA, Philippines-Is the scorching heat making you hotheaded? Keep cool: Think happy thoughts, drink lots of cold water, and wear thin and loose clothing.

Experts from the Philippine Society of Hypertension (PSH) on Tuesday warned that the punishing hot and humid weather expected this month, the peak of summer in the country, can raise one's blood pressure and worsen existing heart conditions.

May has also been declared National Hypertension Awareness Month by the government to increase public awareness on hypertension and its complications, and to urge institutions to link up in preventing the serious health problem.

"The hot weather can bring about high blood pressure," warned PSH president Dr. Lynn Gomez, a nephrologist, internist and hypertension specialist, during a health forum in Quezon City. "So if you don't feel well because of the heat, you have to cool down," she added.

High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney diseases and coronary heart illnesses.

14 million Filipinos

Records from the Department of Health showed that about 25 per cent of Filipino adults, or roughly 14 million, are hypertensive, meaning their blood pressure is consistently equal to, or higher than, 140/90 mmHg.

Heart disease and stroke remain the leading causes of mortality in the country, constituting 35 per cent of total deaths among Filipinos. In 2009, about 167,000 Filipinos died of heart diseases and strokes, 50 per cent of which were associated with high blood pressure.

For better health during the hot summer months, Gomez urged the public, especially those with high blood pressure, to hydrate more frequently with cold drinks to bring the body's core temperature to lower levels.

"At home, you can put a basin filled with ice in front of an electric fan to cool your room if you don't have an air conditioner, or if you don't want to use it," suggested the doctor. Keep windows open at home and wear thin clothing, she added.

Gomez also warned the public against staying outdoors and to avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when sun rays are the strongest. "Think of nice things like the beach to help you cool down," the hypertension specialist said.

Risk factors

The most important approach to prevent hypertension and its accompanying complications is to change three major behaviours: the lack of physical activity, poor diet and cigarette smoking, which all contribute to the rise in risk factors, Gomez said.

Instead, the doctor suggested, go for the DASH diet, or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which follows a low-fat diet rich in low-fat dairy foods, fruits and vegetables. It also involves the intake of whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and dried beans for a more balanced diet.

The DASH diet prohibits the consumption of processed foods such as snack items, luncheon meats and canned soups to help reduce sodium intake, and recommends eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, as well as three servings of low-fat dairy products daily.