What is hypertension?
High blood pressure is also called as hypertension. It is common condition that usually doesn’t cause any symptoms but if left untreated it can affect various parts of our body. It can lead to complications like stroke, heart failure, heart attack, kidney damage, eye damage, etc. Across the world, it contributes to heart related deaths more than any other risk factor.
What are cut off values for labelling a person as hypertension?
Whenever one checks the blood pressure, there are two readings, the upper reading is called as systolic blood pressure and lower reading is called as diastolic blood pressure. Based on these readings hypertension is defined as:
Normal blood pressure — BP <130/85
High Normal — BP 130-139 / 85-89
Hypertension: Grade 1: BP 140 - 159 / 90-99
Grade 2: BP > 160/100
How common is hypertension
According to a study hypertension is very common, almost one in every three Indian adult is suffering from hypertension. It is more common in men as compared to women. It is more common in urban population as compared to rural population.
What causes Hypertension
In most of patients the exact cause is not known, but its more common in people who are obese, exercise less, eat unhealthy food, consume alcohol, doesn’t exercise, who have a family member affected with hypertension. In some cases, it is because of some heart, kidney or some hormonal problems.
What are symptoms of hypertension
In most of patients hypertension doesn’t cause any symptoms. Its mostly when one checks the blood pressure, hypertension is diagnosed. Very few people get complaints like persistent headaches, giddiness, imbalance while walking, blurring of vision, etc.
How to prevent Hypertension?
Making changes to what you eat can help control high blood pressure.
Reduce sodium (salt): Reducing the amount of sodium you consume can lower blood pressure if you have hypertension or elevated blood pressure.
The main source of sodium in the diet does not come from the salt shaker; it comes from the salt contained in packaged and processed foods and in foods from restaurants. It’s recommended to keep daily salt intake less than 3 gms.
Reduce alcohol: Drinking a lot of alcohol increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. A "drink" is defined as 150 ml of wine, 360 ml of beer, or 30 ml of hard liquor. Drinking more than two drinks per day increases the risk of high blood pressure compared with not drinking, and it also makes hypertension more difficult to control. Binge drinking (consuming four to five drinks within two hours) is an even greater problem for overall health and hypertension.
Eat more fruits and vegetables: Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet may reduce high blood pressure or protect against developing high blood pressure; it can also help improve your health in general.
Eat more fiber: Eating an increased amount of fiber may decrease blood pressure. The recommended amount of dietary fiber is 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Many breakfast cereals are excellent sources of dietary fiber. More information about increasing fiber is available separately.
Caffeine: Caffeine can temporarily increase blood pressure in people who don't consume it regularly. In regular caffeine users, a moderate amount of caffeine (equivalent to approximately two cups of coffee daily) usually does not affect blood pressure. However, excessive amounts of caffeine (such as in many supplements and large-size beverages) may raise blood pressure in susceptible people.
Dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) eating plan
The DASH eating plan combines many of the dietary interventions noted above. It is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and low-fat dairy products, with reduced saturated fat, total fat, and meat intake. All people, including those with and without high blood pressure, who strictly follow the DASH eating plan can have fairly significant reductions in blood pressure, particularly when combined with a low-sodium diet.
Regular exercise can lower your blood pressure even if you don't lose weight. Recommendations from the American Heart Association suggest that to achieve substantial health benefits requires 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous intensity aerobic activity (such as jogging) plus muscle-strengthening exercises (resistance training) involving all major muscle groups at least twice per week.
Weight loss and blood pressure
Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk of having high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. A person is considered overweight if their BMI is greater than 25, while a person with a BMI of 30 or greater is classified as having obesity. People who are overweight or have obesity can see significant reductions in blood pressure with even modest weight loss.
Avoid medications causing hypertension:
In susceptible individuals, some pain killers like ibuprofen, naproxen; birth control pills, any stimulant, including those found in some decongestants, weight loss products, and illegal drugs, can increase blood pressure.
What if one continues to have high blood pressure
Consult your doctor and take medications prescribed to you by your doctor on time. Make sure your blood pressure remains under control ( < 130/80 mm Hg). Despite all efforts one-tenth of rural and one-fifth of urban Indian hypertensive population have their BP under control.
So take all measures to keep your blood pressure in control.
(Dr Rahul Chhabria is Consultant Cardiologist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre)