Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary
High blood pressure or hypertension is ranked as the third most significant risk factor for attributable burden of disease in south Asia. In fact, it has been noted that it exerts a considerable public health burden on cardiovascular health status and healthcare systems in India.
What is Hypertension?
High blood pressure also known as hypertension is defined as the force exerted by the blood against the walls of blood vessels, and the magnitude of this force will depend on the cardiac output and the resistance of the blood vessels.
Hypertension, in simple words, is confirmed if you have blood pressure higher than 140 over 90 mmHg. This indicates that the
- Systolic reading (the pressure at which the heart pumps blood around the body) is over 140 mmHg (millimeters of mercury)
- Diastolic reading (when the heart relaxes and refills with blood) is over 90 mmHg.
Range of blood pressure
- Normal Blood Pressure: Systolic: below 120 and Diastolic: below 80
- Prehypertension: Systolic: 120-139 and Diastolic: 80-89
- Stage 1 High Blood Pressure (hypertension): Systolic: 140-159 or Diastolic: 90-99
- Stage 2 High Blood Pressure (hypertension): Systolic:160 or higher or Diastolic: 100 or higher
- Hypertensive Crisis (a medical emergency): Systolic: above 180 or Diastolic: above 110
Causes of hypertension
The exact causes of high blood pressure are unknown, but there are several factors and conditions that may play a key role:
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Overweight or obesity
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive salt intake
- Too much alcohol consumption
- Older age
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnoea
- Birth control pills
Symptoms of hypertension
Hypertension is usually a silent disease. Most people don’t experience any symptoms and it can take years for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become obvious. Few of the common symptoms of Hypertension include:
- Shortness of breath
- Bleeding nose
- Chest pain
- Visual changes
- Blood in the urine
NOTE: All these symptoms are not visible in everyone with hypertension, but waiting for any of these symptoms to appear could be fatal.
Complications of hypertension
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a silent killer which quietly damages the body for years before the onset of any of its symptoms. If left uncontrolled or untreated, it can cause disability, poor quality of life or even a fatal heart attack. Hence, regular checking of your various parameters is important to keep all complications at bay.
It has been seen that roughly half the people with untreated or uncontrolled hypertension die of heart disease associated with poor blood flow (ischemic heart disease) and another third die of stroke.
Few complications which high blood pressure can cause are:
- Damage to arteries
- Damage to heart
- Brain damage
- Damage to kidneys
- Eye damage
- Sexual dysfunction
- Complications in pregnant women (preeclampsia or eclampsia)
Treatment of hypertension
Most of the people suffering from high blood pressure require lifelong treatment. This helps them ward off or delay serious health problems which can be caused by high blood pressure.
Hypertension treatment is mostly targeted in getting to and keeping the blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.
Blood pressure medicines work by:
- Some helps in removing extra fluid and salt from the body to lower blood pressure
- While they are few which help in slowing down the heartbeat or relax it and widen the blood vessels.
NOTE: Depending on the body condition, medical history, and severity of hypertension, the doctor will recommend the medication.
Tips for prevention
If a person is at a risk of developing Hypertension or is suffering from hypertension then following tips can be followed for its prevention:
- Having healthy food
- Having a cut on sugar
- Too much salt should be avoided
- Having plenty of Potassium
- Keeping a healthy weight
- Regularly exercising
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking
- Stress management
- Regular monitoring of Blood pressure
- Regular monitoring of basic health parameters to gauge the effectiveness of medication as well as damage done internally
Patients diagnosed with high blood pressure may be recommended to follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. This diet focuses on heart-healthy foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and rich in nutrients, protein, and fiber.
Prevalence of hypertension
High blood pressure/ hypertension is one of the leading public health problems in India. It has been reported that its prevalence is rapidly increasing among both urban and rural populations. In fact, hypertension is the most prevalent chronic disease in India.
Hypertension is directly responsible for 57% of all stroke deaths and 24% of all coronary heart disease deaths in India. It has been reported that of a total of 9.4 million deaths in India in 1990, cardiovascular diseases caused 2.3 million deaths (25%). A total of 1.2 million deaths were due to coronary heart disease and 0.5 million due to stroke.
The significance of this data grows manifold due to the fact that hypertension is a controllable disease and a 2 mmHg population-wide decrease in BP can prevent coronary heart disease deaths in India. Be aware. Stay healthy. Live longer.