Hypertension: Why You Should Worry

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) is among the major scourges of modern day living. According to WHO estimates, the prevalence of Hypertension in India is about 25 percent, i.e., one in four adults in India suffer from hypertension. This high prevalence coupled with inadequate knowledge about the disease makes it a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

What is Blood Pressure (BP)?

Blood is the oxygen and nutrient-carrying vehicle in the human body. To reach its point of utilization it needs to be pumped by the human heart. This mechanical activity of the heart produces a pressure which is called Blood Pressure. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

What is the ideal Blood Pressure?

The ideal Blood Pressure in human beings varies with age, level of activity and various other physiological conditions. In a healthy adult, the ideal BP is 120/80 mmHg. The condition where the BP is higher than what is expected for your age and gender is called Hypertension.

Why Hypertension is called a “silent killer”?

Hypertension often does not produce any discomfort or illness for a patient in the early phase of the illness. It usually remains ‘silent’ and is detected only when after a routine check-up. The reason why it is called a “silent killer” is that even though the individual does not have any complaints, hypertension keeps affecting the vital organs such as kidneys, heart and the brain. In fact, the first manifestation of hypertension may be heart or kidney failure or a debilitating paralytic stroke.

When and how frequently should Blood Pressure be measured?

Measuring Blood Pressure requires a very simple clinical test and should be performed by all individuals as and when possible. The measurement should be done more regularly if there is obesity, heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy, or family history of Hypertension. Presently, it is recommended that measuring BP at home is better and less prone to error than the clinical recording of BP by a doctor or paramedic. Home measurement devices are now extensively available and are extremely simple to use.

Which Hypertension is worse: systolic or diastolic?

Previously, a lot of importance used to be given to the lower reading of Blood Pressure. It has now been proven that the elevation of the upper reading is more dangerous than the elevation of the lower reading.

How does one prevent Hypertension?

Even though Hypertension to a large extent is under genetic control and therefore is not entirely preventable, its onset can be delayed and a better control can certainly be augmented by the following lifestyle modifications:

  • Reducing the salt and fat content in the diet
  • Reducing the red meat content in the diet
  • Participating in regular exercise schedules
  • Cessation of smoking and moderation in alcohol intake
  • Trying to relieve mental stress

How can Hypertension be treated?

Drugs form the basis of treatment for Hypertension and there are newer and better drugs now available. Although most of these are well-tolerated and free from major side effects, they should be taken in consultation with and under the supervision of a qualified doctor.

What are the warning signs in a patient with Hypertension?

All patients with Hypertension must undergo a routine evaluation at frequent intervals. They must, however, meet a doctor immediately if they develop chest pain, breathlessness, reduced urine output, swelling in the feet or weakness in any part of the body.

In conclusion, Hypertension is an under-recognized disease in society.  This, coupled with its widespread prevalence, makes it mandatory for all members of society to participate in measures to prevent and treat it adequately. Failing to do so not only increases the illness burden of society but also results in an enormous increase in health care expenditure.

The writer, Prof. (Dr.) Vivek Chaturvedi, is a Senior Consultant Cardiology & Director Electrophysiology at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram

 

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