Hypertension: Everything you need to know - Part 1

Hypertension: Everything you need to know - Part 1

Sarabjit, just 35 years of age; a high-flying executive, has been suffering from diabetes for 5 years and has been recently diagnosed with high cholesterol and hypertension too. Reasons could be many, diabetes by itself being one of the main reasons. There are many more like him, especially in our country where there have been drastic lifestyle changes with stress levels hitting the skies, increasing intake of junk foods and absolutely no or limited physical activity.

There is a silent epidemic of killer diseases; affecting the younger office going population in India. A recent study called SITE (Screening India's Twin Epidemic) suggests a grim 60% or three out of five Indians have either diabetes or hypertension or both.

Frankly how many of us are really worried about these numbers though we keep hearing them every now and then. We would still use elevators instead of climbing even 10-20 flight of stairs and still sip on sugar laden; acid laced aerated drinks and tub-full of popcorn while watching the latest movie. There is hardly any time for a good exercise regime!!

General misconceptions like younger age, being lean despite no exercise and gorging on junk foods are the most common mistakes happening around. Aren't we hearing heart attacks or diabetes striking the younger lot more commonly now?

Why should we be worried?

Simply because it's a "Morbid Disease"!!
It is critical to gain control of both diabetes and hypertension as they lead to other severe health complications.

In this series, we shall deal with the know-how of hypertension. We go into the depth of understanding the disease itself, causes, diagnosis and prevention for the betterment of our precious health.

Hypertension or High Blood pressure is also known as a 'Silent Killer' as there are no obvious symptoms for a long period of time.

Blood pressure is a measure of the force (mmHg) of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels. In hypertension, the blood is pumped with a greater force making the heart work harder. Over time, a consistently higher blood pressure tires the heart muscles and can enlarge it. This raises the risk of diabetic complications which affect almost every organ of the body especially the heart, kidneys, eyes and the neuromuscular system.

A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm is considered normal in healthy people. What exactly is this? The above number (140) known as the systolic pressure is the pressure with which the blood is pushed through the heart to the body. The below number (90) or the diastolic pressure is the pressure when the heart relaxes and refills the blood.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has defined the following ranges of blood pressure in mmHg.

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

An anxiety attack, acute stress, intense exercise can briefly elevate the blood pressure even in healthy individuals. However, consistent readings above the normal could be a sign of hypertension which warrants an immediate attention.

Delayed diagnosis

Due to the surreptitious nature of the disease and its complications, many people go undetected for a longer period of time. There is absolutely no clear sign and symptoms till the disease emerge out in its full form where it's too late to reverse them.

The phobia of being diagnosed with a serious illness is higher amongst younger generation which prevents them from getting tested in time. This is a major cause for delayed diagnosis of serious illnesses. Lack of awareness about hypertension and its complications, myths surrounding the disease management makes the treatment and management difficult.

A timely intervention with regards to the treatment and apt lifestyle changes for both the conditions can actually reverse the condition.

Why Me!! - Risk Factors

Suhas works anywhere between 70-80 hours a week, eats whatever food is available, healthy or unhealthy, in and around the office/ home. To keep himself alert at work and to deal with the stress of deadlines and meetings, his buddies are always by his side i.e., cigarettes, energy drinks and numerous cups of coffee/ tea. Weekends are spent in performing personal and social duties, taking the family out for shopping, lunches and dinners.

Couple all the above factors with no or limited exercise, drinking alcohol and poor sleeping habits and other modern living habits and urbanization which make it a complete recipe for any disease to unfold in the long run especially hypertension.

obesity
Image Credit: AHMET YARALI/ iStock

If you have any of the following symptoms then its's a serious cause of concern:

  • Abnormal belly fat or a waist circumference of more than 90 cms
  • Rise in high blood pressure
  • Stress
  • High-fat, high-sodium diet
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Advanced age
  • Smoking
  • Too little potassium or vitamin-D
  • Too much alcohol

If you have checked on any two or more of the above symptoms then it's high time that you take your health a bit more seriously.

Takeaway

Make sure to get your blood pressure checked regularly and take your medicines on time. All keep in touch with your doctor and work towards maintaining your target blood pressure. Try to keep your stress under control and lead a calmer lifestyle with positive thoughts.

Also read other articles in this series for complete and practical step-by-step solutions.

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 2

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 3

Hypertension: Everything you need to know – Part 4

Disclaimer

The above article is for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment for any symptoms/ailments.

References

New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension

The Screening India's Twin Epidemic: Study design and methodology (SITE-1)

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