The global prevalence of hypertension is high, yet more than 50% of the hypertensive population worldwide are unaware of their condition. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for medical conditions like heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and vascular disease.
World Hypertension Day is celebrated on 17th May with the aim of increasing awareness, as it can go undetected for years without any symptoms, while steadily causing damage to the vital organs like the heart and kidneys.
The National Health and Family Survey 2015-16 suggests that in India, efforts to tackle hypertension lack in all aspects, from screening for the condition and providing a diagnosis to the level of treatment given to the patients. According to a report by the Global Burden of Diseases, hypertension led to 1.63 million deaths in India in 2016 as compared to 0.78 million in 1990.
Blood pressure (BP) is measured as two numbers referred to as the systolic and diastolic blood pressure, both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). For example, if someone had a blood pressure reading of say 128/76, the ‘128’ here refers to the systolic pressure which is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. The ‘76’ in this reading refers to the diastolic pressure which is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
Hypertension is a condition wherein the systolic BP is greater than or equal to 130 mmHg and/or the diastolic BP is greater than 80 mmHg.
- Age: The risk of hypertension increases as one grows old. With age, the blood vessels gradually lose some of their elastic quality, which contributes to increased blood pressure.
- Family history: If your parents or first-degree relatives have high blood pressure, there are chances that you might get it too.
- Being overweight: This is a risk factor for a host of other conditions like dyslipidemia which can cause narrowing of your vessels leading to hypertension.
- Using tobacco: Smoking or chewing tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls, which results in your arteries narrowing thus increasing your risk of heart disease.
- Stress: High levels of stress, or not getting enough sleep can lead to temporary high blood pressure. If you try to relax by smoking or drinking alcohol, you will only compound your problems with high blood pressure.
- Too much salt (sodium) in your diet: This causes retention of fluid, which increases the volume of blood in the bloodstream. Increased blood volume leads to more work for the heart and more pressure on the arteries.
- Certain chronic conditions: Chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can also cause high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can lead to complications, including:
- Heart attacks
High blood pressure can dislodge atheromatous plaques made primarily of fat from the walls of arteries, allowing this to occlude major arteries of the heart leading to heart attacks.
While ischaemic strokes occur similar to heart attacks, hemorrhagic strokes occur by high blood pressure causing rupture of the vessels leading to bleeding in the brain
A weakened artery wall creates a bulge or distention of the artery that is known as an aneurysm which can exist due to multiple reasons including atherosclerosis. The high blood pressure can cause these aneurysms to rupture, which can be life-threatening.
- Heart failure
High blood pressure makes the heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently and when your heart muscles don’t pump enough blood for your body to function normally, heart failure occurs.
Blocked arteries restrict blood flow to the brain, leading to a certain type of dementia (vascular dementia). A stroke can also interrupt blood flow to the brain, which leads to vascular dementia.
When to see a doctor
If you are 40 or older, or you are 18 to 39 with a high risk of hypertension, ask your health provider to have your blood pressure checked at least every year.
Once diagnosed, it requires long term management with adequate checkups and compliance to the recommended treatments to prevent debilitating complications. Consult top-quality cardiologists and physicians on the mfine app the minute you need to. Download the app and take charge of your health today.