On May 17, we celebrate World Hypertension Day, a day dedicated to highlighting the importance of monitoring blood pressure and bringing global awareness to the 1 billion people living with high blood pressure worldwide.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is systolic blood pressure consistently above 140 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure consistently above 90 mm Hg. Hypertension is the #1 risk factor for heart disease, stroke, renal complications, and premature death.
Usually, high blood pressure alone does not cause any symptoms.
Fortunately, hypertension can be prevented and managed by checking your blood pressure regularly and through treatment.
An estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30–79 worldwide have hypertension, most (two-thirds) living in low- and middle-income countries. An estimated 46 per cent of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition. Less than half of adults (42 per cent) with hypertension are diagnosed and treated. Approximately 1 in 5 adults (21 per cent) with hypertension have it under control. Hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide. One of the global targets for non-communicable diseases is to reduce the prevalence of hypertension by 33 per cent between 2010 and 2030.
People with high blood pressure may not feel symptoms. The only way to know is to get your blood pressure checked. Things that increase the risk of having high blood pressure include older age, genetics, being overweight or obese, not being physically active, a high-salt diet, drinking too much alcohol, Lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and being more active can help lower blood pressure. Some people may still need to take medicines. Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats. Hypertension is diagnosed if, when measured on two different days, the systolic blood pressure readings are≥140 mmHg and/or the diastolic blood pressure readings on both days are≥90 mmHg.
There are various risk factors associated with hypertension. Modifiable risk factors include:
• Unhealthy diets (excessive salt consumption, a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, low intake of fruits and vegetables)
• Physical inactivity
• Consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
• Being overweight or obese
Non-modifiable risk factors include a family history of hypertension, age over 65, and co-existing diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease. Most people with hypertension don’t feel any symptoms. High blood pressure can cause headaches, blurred vision, and chest pain. Checking your blood pressure is the best way to know if you have high blood pressure. If hypertension isn’t treated, it can cause other health conditions like kidney disease, heart disease and stroke. People with very high blood pressure (usually 180/120 or higher) can experience symptoms including severe headaches, chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision or other vision changes, anxiety, confusion, buzzing in the ears, nosebleeds, and abnormal heart rhythm. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and high blood pressure, seek care immediately.
The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure. Having blood pressure measured is quick and painless. Although individuals can measure their blood pressure using automated devices, an evaluation by a health professional is important for assessing risk and associated conditions. As far as treatment of hypertension is concerned, lifestyle changes can help lower high blood pressure. These include: eating a healthy, low-salt diet, losing weight, being physically active, and quitting tobacco. Your doctor may recommend one or more medicines if you have high blood pressure.
Your recommended blood pressure goal may depend on your other health conditions. The blood pressure goal is less than 130/80 if you have the following:
• Cardiovascular disease (heart disease or stroke).
• Diabetes (high blood sugar)
• Chronic kidney disease
• High risk for cardiovascular disease
For most people, the goal is to have a blood pressure of less than 140/90.
Hypertension is the most common primary diagnosis all over the World and is a major risk factor for stroke, myocardial infarction, vascular disease, and chronic kidney disease.
(The writer is a Scientist, Columnist, Dean and Chairman- Dr B R Ambedkar University)