Much has been said about diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, they are the “three highs” that plague many Singaporeans. According to a local study conducted by NUH, 47% of adults surveyed were reported as having high cholesterol; while the National Health Survey showed that 23.5% of adults have hypertension.
It’s important not to underestimate the severity of these health conditions. High cholesterol is linked to increased risks of heart attacks and strokes, especially for those under 50 years old. Similarly, hypertension can lead to major complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure.
Today, we invite Dr Woo Soon Fatt, an anchor doctor at the DA Clinic Group with more than 30 years of experience, to share the facts behind some commonly held misconceptions around high cholesterol and hypertension.
Myths around High Cholesterol
Myth 1: All cholesterol is bad for you.
“Not all cholesterol is bad,” says Dr Woo. “Cholesterol is important to help our body make hormones as well as build cellular structures in our body.”
“That’s why you’ll hear talk about good and bad cholesterol,” Dr Woo adds. Cholesterol is a substance made in your liver. ‘Good’ cholesterol (known as high-density lipoprotein, HDL) helps to keep your cardiovascular system healthy; while ‘bad’ cholesterol (known as low-density lipoprotein, LDL) causes your arteries to harden. It goes without saying that having more of HDL is preferable than LDL.
Myth 2: Children can’t get high cholesterol.
“Unfortunately, children can get high cholesterol,” Dr Woo clarifies. The causes of high cholesterol are similar to why adults may have high cholesterol. “For example, it could be due to obesity or diet, such as if the child eats a lot of fatty and oily food.”
“Additionally, genes are also a factor in whether a person, including children, may have high cholesterol.”
Myth 3: Only obese people will have high cholesterol.
“It’s dangerous to think that only obese persons will develop high cholesterol,” Dr Woo cautions.
While being overweight makes you more likely to have high cholesterol, weight isn’t the only factor. “In fact, thin people can have high cholesterol too, if they make unhealthy choices or have genes that predispose them towards it.”
It can even be detrimental to your health to think being skinny protects you from high cholesterol, if you continue to eat badly or lead a sedentary lifestyle. Ironically, such behaviours can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol instead.
Myths around Hypertension
Myth 1: I’ll only get hypertension if I eat a lot of salt.
“A high salt intake can make high blood pressure harder to deal with,” says Dr Woo. “You should try to limit your salt intake to about 5g a day.”
However, salt intake isn’t the only factor for hypertension. Other causes of hypertension include smoking or over-consumption of alcohol, a lack of physical activity, genetics, and even high levels of stress.
More than just avoiding consuming excessive salt alone, one needs to lead an overall healthy lifestyle to decrease your risk of developing hypertension.
Myth 2: Hypertension is inevitable as we age.
“Our blood vessels become stiffer when we grow old, which can restrict blood flow,” points out Dr Woo. “It is true that in some populations, you may see more than 90% of those aged 50 – 65 developing high blood pressure.”
This doesn’t mean resigning yourself to the facts of old age. As mentioned above, a healthy lifestyle is key in decreasing the chances of getting high blood pressure.
Simple changes such as eating a balanced diet without over-eating and getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week can go a long way in ensuring your blood pressure levels stay healthy.
Myth 3: Hypertension isn’t serious.
“Hypertension is a silent killer,” cautions Dr Woo. “Many people only find out that they have high blood pressure after they have their first heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.”
This is because there are little observable symptoms when it comes to high blood pressure. You may even feel perfectly fine up till the moment of illness.
“It can be useful measure your blood pressure a few times a year, so that you’re aware of your health status,” advises Dr Woo. “A healthy reading is anything below 120/80 mmHG.”
As with any chronic disease, healthy lifestyle choices are the first step towards preventing and managing your condition.
As mentioned by Dr Woo, it’s also important to measure your health regularly. Doctor Anywhere offers home-based screening packages, that makes staying healthy convenient for you. You can also purchase a home health monitoring device, to make it easier to stay on top of your health.
Speak to a doctor anytime over the DA app, for medical advice on staying in the prime of health.