Expert-backed Ways to Tackle Hypertension
Beat high blood pressure before it's too late.
High blood pressure [HBP], or hypertension, is one of the most common risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. According to a study by the National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 31 per cent. Called a silent killer, HBP is easy to ignore since you don’t see it, until there’s a physical manifestation of the condition. Getting help at the earliest signs of HBP (readings higher than 140/90 or even just a high systolic) can help you avoid a heart problem, or delay it significantly.
The risk quotient
Most people feel perfectly healthy and don’t even realize that they have a blood pressure problem. In fact, less than a third of individuals with HBP are diagnosed in time.
How high blood pressure hurts your heart
When blood pressure is high, the heart has to work harder than it should to pump blood to different parts of the body. Excessive pressure on the artery walls caused by high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and organs in the body. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage.
Uncontrolled HBP ...
... results in hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack and stroke.... causes blood vessels to weaken and bulge, which can be life-threatening.... makes the heart abnormally large and less efficient, eventually leading to heart failure.
Your protection plan
Your blood pressure treatment goal depends on how healthy you are. For a healthy adult, the goal should be to keep your BP below 140/90 mm Hg. If you have heart disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes, your BP goal should be around 130 or 120/80 mm Hg.
Simple lifestyle modifications help. Maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, follow a hearty eating plan, choose foods with low salt and sodium, quit smoking and cut down on alcohol. While changing your lifestyle can go a long way in controlling HBP, sometimes, this alone isn’t enough. Consult your doctor if you have an elevated reading. He may recommend medication. Make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly, even if you are taking medication.
—As told to Kavita Devgan and Sakina Yusuf Khan
Dr A. G. Ravi Kishore is a Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Head, Electrophysiology Services, Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bengaluru
Previously published in Prevention India © September 2008, Living Media India Limited.