According to World Health Organization’s statistics, one in three adults across the globe has hypertension
- The prevalence of high blood pressure is rampant in Indian adults as well in both urban and rural areas.
Unlike popular belief that high blood pressure will come with signals such as headache or dizziness, in most cases it does not display any symptoms. In India, people are yet to develop the habit of getting their vital statistics including blood pressure checked as a matter of routine. This is why many remain unaware for years that they suffer from hypertension. In some cases, a stroke or a heart attack reveals the problem.
According to some estimates, about 33% urban and 25%rural Indians are hypertensive.
While most of us are aware of the implications of hypertension on the health of our heart, we often do not understand the other health risks this ‘silent killer’ puts us into. A person living with hypertension is at an increased risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke. But hypertension also increases risk of other serious health disorders including kidney damage and vision loss.
Hypertension is one of the most common chronic diseases. At the same time, it is also the commonly ignored issue. Dr. T. S. Kler, Executive Director (Cardiac Sciences), Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre, New Delhi (also visiting doctor at Fortis Ludhiana) talks about five health challenges sparked by hypertension:
Coronary Artery disease: This is the most logical outcome of untreated hypertension. With prolonged problem of high blood pressure, the risk of coronary disease (Atherosclerosis) increases. As coronary diseases occur due to fat deposits inside heart arteries called plaque; this leads to narrowing of the arteries. When persistent high blood pressure increases the force against the artery walls, the arteries suffer greater damage. The role of arteries is to supply blood to the entire body and all its organs. When damaged or blocked, arteries are not able to perform this task, which can cause heart attack and many other health concerns. High blood pressure therefore increases manifold the risk for stroke and heart attack. In fact, this is one of the main risk factors for heart attack.
Brain Strokes: Brain strokes kill or disable a large number of people in India. A brain stroke occurs when the blood supply to a particular part of the brain is stopped due to any reason. When this happens, the cells in that part of the brain start dying. This is fatal in many cases. In people who do not die of a stroke, most often paralyses of a particular part of the body sets in. The damage that has occurred inside the brain cannot be repaired. Therefore, strokes are irreversible. Hypertension increases the risk of brain stroke several times. Over time, hypertension hardens the arteries. This in turn can cause blockage of the small blood vessels in the brain. Another effect of hypertension is that it can cause weakening of the blood vessels in the brain, making them susceptible to bursting or hemorrhage. In both case, the result would be a brain stroke, which can be deadly.
The recovery from stroke is proportional to the damage caused to the brain. Therefore, some damage can sustain for long term.
Loss of Vision: Hypertensive retinopathy, as it is called, is caused when the blood vessels to the retina are damaged by high blood pressure, resulting in cotton wool spots and exudates and bleeding at the back of the eye. The body will not warn you about the impending condition. The only way to prevent is to keep hypertension in check. Some patients might experience headaches and burring of vision. This condition is not as common as heart attack or stroke, yet in people who do not take or treat hypertension seriously; this is very much a possibility.
Kidney Failure: Notably, hypertension is also the second major reason for kidney failures; the leading cause being diabetes. Blood pressure and the health of kidneys are interrelated. Imbalance in the any of the two will have directly proportional effect on the other. This implies that people with hypertension are at risk of developing kidney diseases. Hypertension damages the large arteries leading to damage the kidney as well as glomeruli (or vessels) within the kidney. Apart from kidney failure, renal hypertension, glomerulosclerosis (kidney scarring) and kidney artery aneurysm are some of the other kidney diseases caused due to hypertension.
Erectile dysfunction: There is also an association between hypertension and erectile dysfunction. Hypertension can damage blood vessels in any part of the body, including the ones that supply blood to the penis. Since erection is caused due to flow of blood, damaged vessels will not be able to maintain proper flow, making it difficult to achieve and maintain erection.
Women also face sexual dysfunction due to hypertension. In women, reduced blood flow to the vagina due to hypertension decreases their sexual desire or arousal. It further causes vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm.
Some other important information:
1. The only way to know that your Blood pressure is under control is to get it regularly checked.
2. If you have BP get it checked twice a week.
3. People with BP may sound ok. But when they stop medication on their own BP is likely to resurface with more damage. Hence it is more important to get your BP regularly checked.
4. Some people have a misconception that BP medicine has a negative effect on the body. There is nothing like that, one should always smartly handle the BP problem.
Uncured hypertension can turn out to be pool of several diseases. But the good part is that hypertension can be managed with regular medication and lifestyle modifications. The first step towards damage control is to adopt regular exercise as a part of life. A brisk walk of 30 minutes daily is a must for all adults, heavy or slim. People who have high blood pressure also need o control their diet, limit the consumption of sodium, keep weight under check, and say no to negative habits such as smoking and drinking, Equally important is to stick to prescribed medication. Never try to outsmart the advice of your doctor. In this case, it can be life-threatening.