Twenty five year old Sourya Mitra, a Delhi-based freelance writer, had been preparing to run a full marathon. For six months, Sourya had been training hard to build his core muscles, eating nutritious food, and had given up drinking. Weeks before the marathon, he visited his general physician (GP) for a routine checkup and was diagnosed with high blood pressure (BP) bordering on hypertension. On being quizzed by his GP about any symptoms he had noticed, Sourya said he had been experiencing palpitation and dizziness but assumed it was because of the excessive training.
Sourya had in fact missed two of the clearest symptoms of the otherwise asymptomatic high blood pressure. He has been on medication since. In his defence, he says, "I always thought the dizziness was because I was training hard. The palpitation did worry me, but I assumed I was too young to have a heart ailment. Now I pop a pill everyday to keep my blood pressure under control. I really wish I had paid attention to my symptoms and not tried to self medicate myself."
High BP in youngsters is the result of a combination of reasons, including lack of adequate exercise, stress, poor eating habits, excessive intake of salt and fatty acids. Also, it’s possible that Sourya was underline hypertensive from childhood, and excessive training only worsened the situation.
Usually, hypertension is asymptomatic, especially in the young. But if you feel your performance dropping at school or work, or feel your concentration suddenly faltering, it should ring a bell in your head. Other symptoms like dizziness, palpitation, headaches and lethargy are also indicators of high blood pressure. High BP will in itself not kill you, but it can lead to organ damage. It also attacks the cardiovascular system, kidneys, eyes and brain.
Even though a lot of youngsters suffer from high BP, usually it is not secondary hypertension. This arises out of ailments in the kidney or thyroid glands. Once secondary causes are ruled out, it is a matter of taking medicines and changing your lifestyle to get fit – by inculcating healthier habits like increasing fibre content in diet, exercising and reducing weight. Continue your medication till your BP comes under control and gradually reduce the dose.
It might not sound appealing, but you have to start young. You can eat what you desire – but make sure you complement your diet with fresh vegetables, fruits and fibre. Since stress contributes to hypertension, reduce it by meditating. Exercising is very important; no one is asking you to build packs of muscles, but walking everyday for 20 minutes is ideal.
Also, stop smoking and restrict alcohol consumption to safe levels. Parents should not put stress on kids as that could lead them to develop underline hypertension.
(Inputs by Dr VK Rastogi, consultant, internal medicine, Jaipur Golden Hospital)
From HT Brunch, October 30
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