High blood pressure or hypertension, which is often dismissed as a common lifestyle disease affecting scores of people across the world, can damage vital organs if not recognized and controlled at the right time, said experts on Monday ahead of World Hypertension Day, observed annually on May 17.
Hypertension affects more than 30 percent of the adult population worldwide, which is more than one billion people in the world.
According to the latest report by the India Council for Medical Research, one in four adults in India suffer from hypertension and only 10 percent of patients have their blood pressure under control.
Hypertension is defined as a condition where the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. The more blood the heart pumps, the chances are higher for the arteries to become narrow, which therefore increases the blood pressure.
It is the main risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, especially coronary heart disease and stroke, but also for chronic kidney disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, and dementia.
“Hypertension sometimes strikes without warning, which becomes life-threatening. High blood pressure is frequently dismissed, as a common occurrence, and people may fail to recognize the problem until it damages vital organs,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.
“Consistent high blood pressure affects major organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys and is a major cause of premature deaths. Hypertension can be treated with common inexpensive drugs but the problem is people themselves decide to stop the hypertension drugs thinking they are cured which can be dangerous,” added Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals
Further, high blood pressure is a common risk factor in diabetes patients because of the impact of diabetes on the walls of the arteries and the fluid balance.
Both conditions often occur together and have multiple risk factors and causes in common. The risk of developing one condition also increases when a person has another.
Besides causing heart and kidney problems, untreated high blood pressure can also affect your eyesight and lead to eye disease as well.
“Hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images focus. This eye disease is known as hypertensive retinopathy,” said Dr. Apoorv Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi.
High blood pressure also puts an individual at high risk for blockage of veins that carry blood away from the retina, which can be sight-threatening.
While hypertension generally impacts adults, it has now also started to affect even children and adolescents. It can cause cardiovascular complications in children, especially as they grow older.
“Children who suffer from mild hypertension may not show any symptoms, while symptoms for severe hypertension include headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, dizziness, nosebleed, and fast heartbeat,” Dr. Asmita Mahajan, Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, SL Raheja Hospital, Mumbai.
In addition, high blood pressure levels in children can sometimes also lead to fits (seizures), altered consciousness, breathlessness, or rapid breathing.
Despite the fact that hypertension is a lifestyle disease, it is manageable, the experts said.
Maintaining an optimal weight and eating a well-balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lentils, beans and taking blood pressure medicine regularly; avoiding junk food, and food rich in salt. Cutting down stress and smoking and alcohol consumption, together with proper physical activity is very important to prevent hypertension-related complications, they suggested.