Hypertension 101: What, Why and Prevention
World Hypertension Day (WHD) is upon us. 17th May is celebrated as World Hypertension Day annually.
This is an initiative of the World Hypertension League (WHL), an affiliated section of the International Society of Hypertension (ISH).
The World Hypertension League (WHL) has announced that it will postpone the celebration of World Hypertension Day (WHD) 2020 until October 17, 2020, due to global COVID-19 pandemic. The WHD was first celebrated on May 2005 and has become an annual event ever since. WHD’s main goal is to promote mass awareness of hypertension. It also encourages citizens of all countries to prevent and control this silent killer, the modern epidemic.
The expanded theme for World Hypertension Day 2020 is “Measure Your Blood Pressure, Control It, Live Longer”, with a goal of increasing hypertension awareness in all populations around the world.
What exactly is Hypertension
Hypertension is the fancy medical term for high blood pressure (BP). This means that the blood applies too much force against the walls of the blood vessels including arteries, capillaries and veins. Medical guidelines define hypertension as blood pressure higher than 130 over 80 mm of mercury (mmHg), although the absolute normal human blood pressure is 120 over 80 mmHg.
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults are unaware of their high blood pressure.
- Youngsters too can have high blood pressure.
- Women often face pregnancy complications due to high blood pressure.
- High blood pressure may be linked to a higher risk of dementia (forgetfulness disease).
Someone with hypertension may or may not notice any symptoms at all. That is why it is often called the “silent killer.” Regularly checking the blood pressure is vital, as a perfectly ‘healthy looking’ person can end up having high BP.
Having said that, doctors maintain that high blood pressure causes sweating, anxiety, sleeping problems, and blushing. If blood pressure rises above a certain threshold, the victim may experience headaches and nosebleeds.
Hypertension and heart disease are global health concerns. Long-term high BP can cause complications through atherosclerosis, where the formation of plaque results in the narrowing of blood vessels. This aggravates hypertension. The heart must now pump harder to deliver blood to the body.
Hypertension-related atherosclerosis can lead to:
- Heart failure and heart attacks.
- An aneurysm (abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery) that can burst, causing severe bleeding and, in some cases, death.
- Kidney failure.
- Hypertensive retinopathy (retina damage) in the eye, which may lead to blindness.
Although some of these risks are somewhat far-fetched, we would do good to not ignore the seriousness of the threat that hypertension poses.
Hypertension and India
As per the data from the National Health Profile (NHP) 2018, more people were diagnosed with hypertension than diabetes in India in 2017.
The rate at which hypertension spread among 18-25 years-old was higher than that estimated by WHO and in fact than any other country in the world.
(Hypertension and India)
Hypertension and COVID-19
If someone has high blood pressure, it’s a good idea to take extra care and precautions to protect himself/herself during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Early research shows that people with the condition may be more likely to:
- Get COVID-19
- Have worse symptoms
- Die from the infection
Medical data from China and Italy, countries hit early by the virus, show higher risk of COVID-19 infections and complications in people with high blood pressure.
In China, 25% to 50% of people who came to hospitals with Coronavirus had high blood pressure or another health condition like cancer, diabetes, or lung disease. In Italy, more than 99% of people who’ve died from the virus had one of these conditions and 76% of them had high blood pressure.
People with high blood pressure are also more at risk to suffer and even expire from Coronavirus. They carry roughly 6% higher risk than others.
Basic Precautions and Lifestyle Changes to tackle Hypertension
Shedding Extra Body Weight
We should all maintain a healthy weight. When it comes to hypertension prevention, the body weight is crucial. Obesity increases the chances of developing high blood pressure.
As a rough medical assessment, one may reduce his/her blood pressure by about 1 mmHg per kilogram of weight loss. Also:
- For main, the risk zone is if their waist measurement is more than 40 inches or about 102 cm.
- For main, the risk zone is if their waist measurement is more than 35 inches or about 89 cm.
Regular Exercise/ Physical Activity
Regular physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mmHg if one has high blood pressure. It’s important to be consistent because if exercising is stopped abruptly, blood pressure can rise again.
Consuming a healthy die rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and skimmed dairy products can reduce blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg for hypertension patients. This is often terms as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet.
Writing down what one eats, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on his/her true eating habits. Monitoring what one eats, how much, when and why is of paramount importance when it comes to lowering blood pressure.
Reducing Sodium and adding Potassium to the Diet
Even a small decrease in the Sodium (mainly found in common or table salt) in diet can improve heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg for high BP patients.
Also, we should consider increasing the level of Potassium in our diet. Potassium can reduce the ill effects of sodium on blood pressure. Fresh vegetables and fruit serve as great sources of Potassium. Supplements should not always be taken.
Cutting Down on Alcohol and Tobacco
Too much alcohol consumption can lead to considerably high blood pressure. For women, the “safe limit” is no more than one drink a day, and for men, no more than two.
Smoking can raise blood pressure considerably. Giving up smoking and other forms of tobacco reduces the risk of hypertension, heart conditions, and other health issues.
Avoiding Stress and Meditating
Yes it is easier said than done but stress should be avoided as much as possible to keep hypertension in check. We should learn to manage our stress better to help control our blood pressure. For that, proper management of schedules and lifestyle changes might be necessary.
Meditation, Yoga etc. helps to cut down stress considerably and also improves psychological health.
Regular Monitoring and Keeping A Note
As per some doctors, we should all monitor our blood pressures at regular intervals and keep a note of it just in case. Buying battery powered digital sphygmomanometer (the device used to measure BP) for this purpose would prove to be helpful.