Hypertension kills 8 million people every year and its incidence is expected to go up by 60 per cent in 2025. It is a leading risk factor for heart diseases, pregnancy complications, diabetes, and dementia among other ailments.
However, it is important to know that hypertension is preventable. Sedentary lifestyle, increased stress, unhealthy eating, smoking and alcohol consumption all contribute to the increased risk of hypertension. The fact that most people do not know about their hypertensive condition is extremely worrisome. Hence, it is extremely important to spread awareness.
So what’s hypertension? According to World Health Organisation (WHO), hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. The higher the pressure the harder the heart has to pump. Monitoring blood pressure is very important because the higher the blood pressure, the higher the chances of health issues. Since high blood pressure has no symptoms, it is considered a silent condition.
According to Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, National President Indian Medical Association (IMA) and President, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI), “Blood pressure (BP) should be monitored regularly because it is a barometer of health and there are often no symptoms to alert one to the presence of high BP. It’s a silent killer. By the time symptoms develop, some damage has occurred to the target organs like eye, brain, heart, or kidney. Mostly, BP should be taken at each doctor’s visit. In addition, one should always remember the rule of 20 in hypertension.”
If the blood pressure is high, it puts an extra strain on the arteries and the heart. Over a period, this strain can cause the arteries to become to become thicker and less flexible or become weaker. As a result, the arteries become narrow, making them more likely to become clogged up, explains Dr Sameer Pagad,
Interventional Cardiologist, K.J. Somaiya Hospital Super Specialty Centre.
If an artery gets completely clogged up (known as a clot), the condition can lead to a heart attack, dementia, kidney disease or a stroke or even lead to death.
Dr. Anand M, Cardiologist, Frontier Lifeline Hospital explains, “The diagnosis of hypertension is the tip of iceberg phenomenon. Patients usually do not have any symptom and are diagnosed to have hypertension when they seek medical attention for hypertensive complications such as stroke, heart disease or kidney disease. There are no particular signs or symptoms to suggest patient has hypertension. Patients with other comorbid conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol level and obesity and persons with family history of hypertension in young age (more than 40 years of age) should check their BP regularly with the treating physician. Generally people over 40 years of age should have their BP checked when they come in contact with medical personnel or annually. It is also the duty of the doctor to check BP regularly for all the patients.”
The risk of CAD and heart attack in hypertension is 20 per cent, risk of peripheral vascular disease in hypertension is 20 per cent and risk of paralysis in hypertension is 20 per cent. Hypertension or high blood pressure can silently damage the body for years before any symptoms develop. One may end with a poor quality of life; develop a disability or even a fatal heart attack. Half the people with untreated hypertension die of heart disease due to poor blood flow (ischemic heart disease) and another third die because of stroke.
High BP is known as hypertension and can cause headaches. However, the symptoms remain silent till there is damage to the blood vessels of a organ. This can further lead to a stroke or a heart attack. There are many reasons why a normal BP reading may fluctuate between high and low. Dr Aggarwal warns, “A difference of more than 20 points in the reading, in either direction, may indicate a serious health issue. Some factors responsible for fluctuating BP are stress, medication, caffeine, food habits, fever, or dehydration.”
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