One in three working Indians could have hypertension — a condition that ups heart diseases risk by a fifth, but a majority of them have no idea how abnormal their blood pressure levels are.
Sixty percent of those with hypertension were not aware about it, said preliminary data from a study by the Cardiology Society of India (CSI), done ahead of World Heart Day that falls on September 29.
What makes these findings significant is that a person with hypertension is at a 20% higher risk of developing a cardio-vascular disease, in other words, at a higher risk of getting a heart attacks, doctors said.
The study tested 74,520 people between 18 and 60 years at health booths stationed in public places in metros like Mumbai and Delhi, and villages across 24 states on September 21. The people were chosen randomly from various age brackets.
More worrying is the fact that 42% of people have uncontrolled blood pressure even though they were under medication. Doctors said the medication could be ineffective because of irregular consumption or a wrong dose.
A doctor diagnoses a person with hypertension when blood pressure is above the normal 140 /90 units.
“Most people are in denial when they are told they have hypertension. Both the medical community and patients need to understand that lifestyle changes are required to control hypertension,” said Dr Rama Krishnan from CSI — an academic body of 6,000 cardiologists from across India.
Losing weight and eating healthy are the easiest ways to control hypertension, and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease, he said.
The survey, Dr Krishnan said, also showed an increasing number of young people were developing hypertension. One in every four people who had hypertension were between 31 and 45 years. Around 13% with the condition were between 18 and 30 years.
Earlier studies have indicated Indians’ genetic predisposition put them at a relatively higher risk of developing diabetes and hypertension, both of which increase the risk of heart diseases. And, with bad lifestyle choices such as smoking, many Indians cause further damage to the heart. During the study, doctors found 42% people with hypertension smoked or consumed tobacco.
Around 19% with hypertension also had high blood cholesterol levels. “If people develop even a muscular chest pain, they rush to the hospital. But nobody bothers to check blood pressure, which when not controlled, can trigger various heart diseases,” said Dr Ashok Seth, former president of CSI and chairman of the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Delhi.
“Young adults are increasingly being detected with abnormal blood pressure, which could be a result of high sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits and stress,” he said. Practising doctors said the study’s findings affirmed what they have observed while treating people. “Around 30 to 35% people have hypertension. It is a silent killer,” said Dr Vijay Surase, cardiologist.