- High blood pressure is often known to be a silent killer
- It does not show any symptoms but can lead to heart disease and stroke
- A healthy lifestyle is helpful in managing blood pressure
World hypertension day is observed on may 17 across the world. According to the indian journal of medical research, while the prevalence of hypertension or high blood pressure is significantly high in india, the level of awareness about this disease is quite low. A study undertaken by plos medicine, an international medial journal in 2019 revealed that more than 50 per cent of indians with hypertension are unaware of the disease. This is alarming as awareness and early detection play a key role in the management of hypertension for reducing the disease burden.
World Hypertension Day: What is high blood pressure and what causes it?
High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood against the walls of the artery increases severely, creating pressure on them. The pressure is determined by two factors- the amount of blood pumped by the heart and the resistance capacity of the arteries to this blood. An increase in the amount of blood pumped leads to the narrowing of the arteries, causing high blood pressure.
Sedentary lifestyles coupled with stress has led to a significant increase in hypertension over time. This has been further fuelled during the ongoing pandemic where people may be adopting a casual approach towards health while being at home. Home confinement can also lead to psycho-social issues which can cause hypertension. There can be increased stress owing to various factors such as work-life balance, mental health and wellness. These coupled with lack of regular physical activity can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Therefore, it is very important to be aware of the symptoms of hypertension and seek medical help on time.
Hypertension can be caused by both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. The modifiable ones include consumption of tobacco and alcohol, obesity, consumption of unhealthy diets, intake of excessive sodium, obesity, lack of physical activity and stress while the non-modifiable risk factors include age, family history of the disease and other medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease.
The warning signs or symptoms include severe headaches, fatigue, confusion, vision problems, chest pain, breathing difficulty, irregular heartbeats or even blood in the urine. Hypertension is often known as the 'silent killer' because most of the symptoms do not manifest themselves significantly. If not detected and addressed in time, hypertension and lead to fatalities such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, dementia or narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys.
Hypertension can be managed and treated through lifestyle modifications and medication through the following:
- Consume a healthy and well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Reduce or limit the intake of sodium
- Avoid smoking and consumption of alcohol
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Keep your weight in control
- Reduce stress
- Limit the intake of caffeine
Regular monitoring of blood pressure, especially by those who are at an increased risk is mandatory. In case of experiencing any of the symptoms, one must consult the doctor immediately. Even though, there are restrictions on movement and doctor visits amidst the current pandemic, patients should seek teleconsultation for discussing symptoms with their doctor for timely management and treatment. Being aware and seeking medical intervention on time is the key to combating hypertension.
(Dr. R. R. Kasliwal is Chairman, clinical and preventive cardiology, heart institute, medanta)
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