Understanding Hypertension: Causes and Management
One in every eight Indians above 30, suffers from high blood pressure, according to the National Family Health Survey, 2018, a significant increase from the one-in-every-11 in the 2015-16 survey, depicting the havoc being wreaked by modern lifestyles. Therefore, it is important that you identify the causes of hypertension and also know about its prevention and treatment. After all, awareness and prevention go hand in hand, doesn’t it?
According to the National Family Health Survey, 8.6% of India’s population (10.4% men, 6.7% women) had hypertension as of 2017. Since the screening was largely rural, the results were alarming as hypertension so far has not been a concern in rural areas. The extent of hypertension is much higher in urban areas. As per a screening done by the Cardiological Society of India, one out of every four urban Indian suffers from hypertension, which is comparable with the developed world.
A JAMA Internal Medicine Study, Mar 2018 had shown that more people are affected by hypertension than diabetes in India. It highlighted that the prevalence of hypertension among 18-25 years-old was higher than that estimated by the WHO; the highest in the world.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition when the pressure of the blood being pumped through the arteries is higher than normal. Normal resting blood pressure in an adult is approximately 120 mmHg systolic, and 80 mmHg diastolic, abbreviated as “120/80 mmHg”. The Indian Health Ministry defines high blood pressure as a reading of more than 140/90 mmHg; globally, even a reading of 130/90 mmHg is considered high blood pressure.
Read further to know what hypertension is, its causes and about ways you can lower it!
What is Hypertension?
Blood is pumped through our arteries and veins every time our heart beats. Blood pressure is created by the force exerted by the blood against the blood vessels, as they carry blood around the body. It is usually expressed in terms of the systolic pressure over diastolic pressure and is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because it has no signs or symptoms. Hence, often times it goes undiagnosed especially in underdeveloped and developing countries, increasing their risk for several heart-related disorders. Long-term high blood pressure can increase the risk for many serious and life-threatening diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, chronic heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD) and dementia.
What causes Hypertension?
There are two types of hypertension with each having a different cause. They are – primary hypertension and secondary hypertension.
Primary hypertension, also known as essential hypertension develops with no identifiable cause. About 95% of people have essential hypertension. A combination of factors might be contributing in slowly increasing the blood pressure. Some of the factors are:
If you have a family member suffering from high blood pressure, then you have a higher risk of it. This might be due to some inherited gene mutations or abnormalities from your parents.
Older people have a higher risk of hypertension. As you grow older, your blood vessels become more rigid preventing them from opening as effectively as before, which increases peripheral resistance (resistance of the arteries to blood flow).
Other common risk factors include stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, higher sodium or salt intake in diets, lack of exercise, and obesity. But, these are modifiable risk factors and you can reduce them by changing your diet or lifestyle.
How can you manage hypertension?
You can manage high blood pressure by making certain dietary or lifestyle modifications. The following lifestyle changes can help prevent or lower high blood pressure:
- Eating a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein like fish can help reduce high blood pressure and risk of many heart disorders such as heart attacks, and strokes. Know about the role of diet in treating hypertension here!
- Increasing physical activity: Maintaining a healthy weight by regular exercising can help reduce high blood pressure naturally and also strengthen your cardiovascular system. Obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure significantly.
- Managing stress: Stress can be a contributing factor in increasing the risk of high blood pressure. Stress can cause hypertension through repeated blood pressure elevations as well as by stimulation of the nervous system. You can reduce stress through meditation, yoga, deep breathing, muscle relaxation and adequate sleep.
- Adopting better lifestyle: Smoking can harden blood vessels and increase the risk of high blood pressure. Daily alcohol consumption also contributes to hypertension. Hence, reduce or stop smoking and drinking to avoid high blood pressure.
However, you might need to take medicines if lifestyle modifications do not show any considerable change. Consult a doctor for more targetted recommendations.
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