Hypertension kills on the sly
India’s largest campaign to screen blood pressure began on May 1. The screening is important because high blood pressure results in the death of an estimated 2.6 lakh people in the country each yearindia Updated: May 13, 2017 19:06 IST
Two years ago, Mumbai businessman Saalim Shaikh, 25, suddenly developed a splitting headache and a nosebleed. It turned out to be hypertension — a condition where a person’s blood pressure stays above 140 / 90mmHg for over two weeks. Two years on, he still pops two pills a day to keep his BP down. “I also try to control my temper,” he says. But his doctors tell him that’s not enough. “Unless he mends his lifestyle and starts eating fruits every day, loses weight and exercises regularly, the symptoms will likely recur,” says his doctor, cardiologist Mohammed Khan.
India’s largest blood pressure screening campaign began on May 1, with a target of screening 25 lakh people by the end of the month. Hypertension— high blood pressure— is a condition that kills an estimated 2.6 lakh people in the country each year.
The target age group for screening is between 18 years and 65 years, as the condition is increasingly affecting the young primarily due to their faulty lifestyle.
“The incidence of hypertension in children who are obese or overweight is higher. At young age, if there is no family history of heart disease, the cause for high blood pressure could be lifestyle-driven,” says Dr Anupam Sibal, senior paediatrician at New Delhi’s Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.
To assess the prevalence of obesity and hypertension in children aged 10-15 years, and correlate this with their dietary habits and lifestyle, Dr Sibal and his team surveyed 2,000 children over a period of two years.
The incidence of hypertension in children who were obese, overweight and those with Body Mass Index greater than 90th percentile was 13.4 per cent, 3.7 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.
“The majority of obese children had minimum hours of play and maximum time of sedentary activity along with greater calorie consumption as compared to other children,” says Dr Sibal.
High blood pressure has long been recognised as one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and premature deaths worldwide, and is one of the most common lifestyle ‘silent killer’ diseases today, with every third person suffering from it. “Over the past two years, the number of under-30s coming to me with high BP has risen by 30 per cent, and their lifestyle is a major cause,” says Dr Haresh Mehta, consultant cardiologist at Mumbai’s SL Raheja Hospital.
- What is Hypertension: A condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually lead to adverse health impact. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. One can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms that damages blood vessels and the heart.
- Hypertension causes 2.6 lakh deaths in India each year
- 29 per cent of strokes, 24 per cent of Acute Myocardial Infarctions, 21 per cent of Peripheral Vascular Disease and 16 per cent of Ischemic Heart Disease are attributed to hypertension
“Headaches, watery eyes and breathlessness are often the only indications in the early stages. They’re usually ignored until they become acute and / or regular.”
International data suggests fewer than half of those with hypertension are aware of their condition. High blood pressure causes approximately 9.4 million deaths each year worldwide, and many of those who die never knew they were affected.
In India it kills 2.6 lakh people. Not everyone has symptoms, and some only find out after suffering a heart attack or stroke, or are diagnosed with something else, such as heart or kidney disease.
The adult hypertension prevalence has shown a drastic increase in the past three decades in urban as well as rural areas. It is estimated that 16 per cent of Ischemic Heart Disease, 21 per cent of Peripheral Vascular Disease, 24 per cent of Acute Myocardial Infarctions and 29 per cent of strokes are attributed to hypertension.
In fact, the nine known risk factors for heart disease – not in the order of risk – are smoking, an abnormal ratio of good and bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity, stress, a lack of daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as a lack of daily exercise.
- Salt Intake
- Sugar Intake
- Saturated Fat Intake
- Sedentary Lifestyle
Risk begins in schools these days, especially in high school when junk food intake shoots up and activity levels go down as teens spend more time online or just studying. By the time people enter the twenties if high blood pressure and cholesterol problems haven’t hit them already, this is the time when they are the most vulnerable. “We see many youngsters with high blood pressure these days, and recently performed an emergency angioplasty— propping open a clogged artery using a stent, on a 28-year-old man who was suffering from hypertension that led to a severe heart attack,” says Dr Purshottam Lal, interventional cardiologist and chairman Metro Group of Hospitals in Delhi-NCR.
One should start getting screened for BP at the age of 20, especially if there is a family history of heart disease, and then periodically every six months to know the pattern. Doctors warn against ignoring symptoms even if it is as small as a heavy head.
“Many a time, a heavy head is due to high blood pressure. It’s good to get checked as high blood pressure is the biggest silent killer that can damage kidneys, cause blindness, can lead to heart attack and stroke,” said Dr S Ramakrishnan, department of cardiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
And even though medication is available, Dr Mehta adds, nothing works as well as a healthy lifestyle.