GP advice: Blood pressure and growth spurts

READER: I am a man in my late 40s. I recently had my blood pressure and weight checked at screening organised by my employer. 

I am overweight and my blood pressure was raised on the day so I was advised to see my GP. I have made an appointment, is there anything I can do in the meantime?

GP: Anyone who has similar results from screening should always follow up with their GP as you are doing. A large number of factors can affect blood pressure and these include genetic as well as lifestyle factors.

As high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing a number of conditions, including heart disease or stroke, it is very important you stay in contact with your GP and that your blood pressure is monitored carefully. It is also important to monitor other factors such as weight.

Some people ultimately need medication to manage their blood pressure; however, there are a number of things that you can start to do now.

Losing weight can reduce your blood pressure and it has other health benefits. Your GP can advise you on the best way to undertake this.

Regular exercise and being physically fit helps to control blood pressure. Try to have at least 30 minutes of physical exercise per day, at least five days per week. If you have not been taking regular exercise, you should talk with your GP before starting an exercise programme.

Reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Limit the amount of salt used in cooking and never add salt at the table. If you buy processed foods look for those labelled ‘no added salt’.

Drink alcohol in moderation as alcohol increases blood pressure. The recommended amount for men is less than 17 units of alcohol per week.

A healthy diet is important. Try to reduce the amount of fat in your diet and use mono-saturated or polyunsaturated fats. Keep to lean meat, include two to three portions of fish per week and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Limit the number of caffeine drinks to fewer than five cups per day — caffeine is thought to have a modest effect on blood pressure.

If you smoke, stop.

Ensure you have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Try to have a break away from the office each day, a ten-minute walk at lunch time around the block can give you time to clear your head and relax.

READER: My 11-year-old daughter has had a growth spurt over the last six months. At the weekend the family went swimming and I noticed a very slight curve in her spine below her neck. I am concerned as, although I have heard of scoliosis, I don’t know much about it.

GP: I can understand your concern but it is important that you have noticed the recent change in your daughter’s spine as this does need medical advice.

Scoliosis or curvature of the spine is a condition which causes the spine to curve to the left or right side. It can develop at any age but is most common in children between the ages of 10 and 15 years during puberty, particularly if they have a growth spurt. It affects girls predominantly (90% of cases) and this is possibly related with the more rapid female pubertal growth spurt.There are different degrees of scoliosis, while mild scoliosis affects girls and boys equally, moderate scoliosis tends to affect more girls. In the majority of cases the cause of the curvature is unknown and it is known as idiopathic scoliosis.

With mild scoliosis there are often no symptoms; what usually happens is that parents notice a change in the appearance of the child’s shoulders, chest or hips. For the majority of children the scoliosis is mild and treatment, other than regular observation, is not required, as the condition corrects itself and the spine straightens as the child grows.

Once any change in a child’s spine is noticed, it is important to seek medical advice and I would advice you to make an appointment for your daughter with her GP as soon as possible. In some cases in addition to a physical examination an x-ray of the spine may be required.

I am sure her GP will be able to reassure you and your daughter.


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