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Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer owing to its stealthy nature, as it rarely exhibits noticeable symptoms until it reaches dangerous levels.
World Hypertension day is observed on May 17 every year
India has been experiencing a growing burden of hypertension over the past few decades. A recent survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) found that 28.5% adults of in India were hypertensive. Nearly 72.1% or 3/4th of these hypertensive patients were undiagnosed, increasing the risk of developing other comorbidities like heart failure or chronic kidney disease. The study also revealed that awareness, treatment, and control rates of hypertension were relatively low in the country.
What exactly is Hypertension?
Blood pressure is the force exerted by blood against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. Hypertension occurs when this force is consistently too high, putting strain on the heart and blood vessels. While normal blood pressure typically falls below 120/80 mmHg, hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure consistently reads 130/80 mmHg or higher.
Understanding the “silent killer”
Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer owing to its stealthy nature, as it rarely exhibits noticeable symptoms until it reaches dangerous levels. This can be attributed to its gradual onset where the increase in blood pressure may go unnoticed, and individuals may overlook the importance of monitoring their blood pressure regularly. In some cases, symptoms like headaches, dizziness, fatigue, or nosebleeds may occur, but can be mistakenly attributed to causes other than high blood pressure.
Uncontrolled hypertension also puts strain on blood vessels throughout the body, which can lead to various comorbidities such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases like heart failure, renal disease like chronic kidney disease and neurological conditions like brain stroke. However, this may occur silently without causing noticeable symptoms until a major health event occurs. Diabetes is one comorbidity that is closely interlinked with hypertension because of similar risk factors. In fact, hypertension is a common complication of diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of hypertension.
Several factors could lead to hypertension, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and certain underlying medical conditions. Common risk factors include unhealthy diet rich in sodium and saturated fats, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive alcohol consumption. Obesity, age, and stress can also increase blood pressure. Understanding these risk factors is important for early intervention to reduce the impact of hypertension on overall health.
Hypertension can be effectively managed and controlled through various lifestyle modifications and medical interventions. Here are some strategies to manage hypertension:
1. Regular Blood Pressure Monitoring: Monitor blood pressure regularly at home or through regular visits to healthcare providers. This helps to track progress, identify any fluctuations, and ensure that the blood pressure stays within the target range. Maintain regular communication with healthcare professionals to discuss blood pressure management, adjust medications if needed, and address any concerns or questions.
2. Healthy Diet: Adopt a balanced and heart-healthy diet that includes reducing sodium intake, consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is often recommended for individuals with hypertension.
3. Regular Exercise and Weight Management: Engage in regular aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Exercise will also help in maintaining a healthy weight or work towards losing excess weight. Even a small reduction in weight can have a positive impact on blood pressure.
4. Limit Alcohol Consumption and Avoid Smoking: Both alcohol and smoking can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Hence alcohol consumption should be limited to moderate levels and avoid smoking altogether.
5. Stress Management: Adopt stress management techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies to help manage stress levels.
6. Medicines to Control Hypertension: In-spite of healthy lifestyle, many patients need medication to keep blood-pressure under control. Medicines given for blood-pressure reduction, do not only control the blood-pressure, but also protect kidneys, heart, brain, retina, and other vital organs of the body.
The increasing incidences of Hypertension call for healthier life choices to improve the overall quality of life and help manage the healthcare burden of the country.
(Dr. Parag Rajnikant Shah, D.M. Endocrinology, D.N.B. Endocrinology, Director of Gujarat Endocrine Centre)
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