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Lowering BP counts, be it using yoga or medicines

There exists a group of people with a Superman complex who think they are indestructible and live in perennial denial of their health problems.

columns Updated: Jun 16, 2013 00:10 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Medicine treats disease but for many, this is just what works against it. Though they lack a descriptor, there exists a group of people with a Superman complex who think they are indestructible and live in perennial denial of their health problems.

So, in antithesis of hypochondriacs who compulsively obsess about diseases real and imaginary, this nameless group chooses to do the ostrich when faced with symptoms and pretend they are healthy, when they are anything but.

Most “denialists” are usually under 40, which somewhat explains the Man-of-Steel obsession, and have self-worth so high they think they know the human body better than scientists and doctors with knowledge based on centuries of collective research and learning.

Lately, I’ve been running into an unbelievable number of people choosing laughing clubs or the irrepressible Ramdev’s yogic remedies to help lower their blood pressure or cure their diabetes instead of going for prescription medicines with scientifically-documented and reviewed benefits. And then, convinced that they are “feeling good” and have beaten back the disease, they stop going to doctors, which is a mistake because the disease almost always strikes back in a more severe and unmanageable form.

I’m not getting into whether induced laughter sessions and breath acrobatics work on health. All I’m saying is that you’ve to continue tracking your disease or condition medically to make sure you do not miss the opportunity of managing it in early stages when simply lifestyle changes and drugs can help control and even reverse it.

Ignoring early signs and symptoms and hesitating using medicines to manage high blood pressure are the two major reasons why hypertension (sustained high blood pressure) is an increasing problem even in a developed region like Europe, report the new joint Guidelines issued by the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) issued on Friday.

The document urges people to track blood pressure levels closely and take medicines if the higher reading of their blood pressure (systolic) stays over 140 mmHg. This advice replaces the previous, more complicated target, which included both systolic and diastolic recommendations for different levels of risk (140/90 mmHg for moderate to low risk patients and 130/80 mmHg target for high risk patients, such as people with diabetes or existing heart disease).

One in every three adults worldwide have hypertension, which contributes to 62% strokes and 49% heart attacks worldwide, say World Health Organisation estimates. Yet young people are less likely than older men to believe they have hypertension and less likely to go to the doctor for a reading or prescription medicines.

In early stages, hypertension responds well to prescription medication, lifestyle changes such as eating less salt (roughly half present levels), lowering weight, quitting smoking and exercising at least five times a week. If left uncontrolled, it leads to life-threatening conditions that include heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Symptoms generally appear only after the disease is entrenched and has already caused damage. For example, headache, the best known symptom, appears only in a “hypertensive crisis”, when your blood pressure reading has crossed 180/110 mmHg. Healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, 120 represents systolic pressure, or the pressure of blood against artery walls when the heart beats, whole 80 is diastolic pressure, or the pressure between beats.

The new European guidelines — to be simultaneously published in the Journal of Hypertension and Blood Pressure and European Heart Journal — highlight the lack of awareness of the potential problems of hypertension amongst people, poor long-term adherence to treatment, and the “inertia” of doctors, who do not give appropriate advice to patients with uncontrolled blood pressure.

The report offers no specific preference for single drug therapy or and an updated protocol for treatment. All that matters is you keeping your readings in check, be it through fake laughter, pretzel postures, losing weight or prescription medicines.