Dr Marcus Brauer, a General Practitioner from one of UK P&I Club’s PEME approved clinics in South Africa, provides medical insight into one of the marine industry’s most concerning medical issues: hypertension.
“Hypertension is currently the second most frequent reason for PEME failure, and the illness alone represents 8% of all unfit decisions. Hypertension is a constant cause of crew illness incidents and can lead to heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia and chronic kidney disease. In 2014, it was estimated that hypertension cost the NHS in the UK over £2 billion in healthcare services and medications.
“Hypertension is an elevation in blood pressure, which leads to damaged blood vessels in the brain, heart and kidneys. The process has a number of contributing causes, including smoking, inactivity, stress, obesity, alcohol and poor diet.
“Hypertension is usually asymptomatic, meaning the patient is often unaware of the condition. In most cases, hypertension is only discovered through routine blood pressure readings, such as those taken during the UK P&I Club’s PEME examinations.
“The longer the hypertension process goes undetected, the more difficult it becomes to manage the condition with medication. However, there are a number of measures that can be taken to improve a patient’s condition:
· Education of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
· Stop smoking – or at the very least, reduce smoking.
· Achieve a healthy BMI of <25.
· Healthy eating habits – with emphasis on eating fresh fruit, vegetables, salads and healthy protein.
· Regular exercise – aim for a 30 minute workout at least three days a week.
· Avoid excess salt in food – this is of particular note when pursuing a healthy lifestyle.
· Manage any co-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels.
· Manage stress – exercise, meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can all be beneficial.
· Avoid excess alcohol consumption – recommended consumption levels are less than 5 units of alcohol in a 24 hour time period, and not more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
“Ultimately, the responsibility of a seafarer’s health rests with the individual, but encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle onboard would be a cheap and cost-effective way to assist in preventing health problems such as hypertension.”
Source: UK P&I Club