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Hypertension In India On The Rise: Causes, Symptoms And Ways To Manage The Condition

According to a recent study, nearly one-third of the Indian population suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure [1]. Hypertension means having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or greater and a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or greater. The study also found that more women get treatment for their high blood pressure compared to men.


Hypertension In India On A Rise: What Does The Study Say?

Here are the significant findings from the study published in The Lancet:

  • An estimated 30 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men suffer from high blood pressure that can lead to heart diseases [2].
  • In case of getting treatment at the right time, 35 per cent of women get it compared to 25 per cent of men.
  • The findings that more women opted for treatment than men were quite surprising for the study authors, who said, "In India, the menfolk generally get more medical care. A difference of 10 per cent in treatment between the two genders is significant" [3].
  • The study used blood pressure measurements from more than ten crore people taken over three decades in 184 countries, including South Korea, India, USA, Germany, Nepal, Portugal etc.
  • The number of people suffering from hypertension has increased to 626 million women and 652 million men in 2019, from an estimated 331 million women and 317 million men in 1990.
  • The majority of the spikes were reported in low and middle-income countries.
  • Out of the subjects, 41 per cent of women and 51 per cent of men (in 2019) were unaware of their condition.
  • 53 per cent of the women and 62 per cent of the men with the condition were not treated.
  • Canada and Peru had the lowest proportion of people with hypertension in 2019.
  • Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, and the UK were found to have the lowest hypertension rates among women; Eritrea, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and the Solomon Islands had the lowest rates among men.
  • More than half of the women studied in Paraguay and Tuvalu in 2019 were found to have hypertension. Argentina, Paraguay, Tajikistan and several countries in central and eastern Europe had a majority of men with high blood pressure [4].
  • Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey, and Iran showed significant improvements in treatment and control rates over the past three decades [5].
  • Good practice in diagnosing and treating hypertension was seen in high-income countries and middle-income countries.
  • However, some countries, especially in Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa, lacked data on hypertension prevalence, which can affect the global numbers.
  • The researchers concluded the study by stating that improving universal health coverage and strengthening primary care has been instrumental in enhancing hypertension care and reducing the severity of the condition [6].
  • It was also added that it is important to improve low-detection countries' capacity to detect and treat hypertension as part of primary health care.
  • "Despite medical and pharmacological advances over decades, global progress in hypertension management has been slow, and the vast majority of people with hypertension remain untreated, with large disadvantages in low- and middle-income countries."

    The experts continued, "Low detection and treatment rates that persist in the world's poorest nations, coupled with the rising number of people who have hypertension, will shift an increasing share of the burden of vascular and kidney diseases to sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and South Asia [7]."


What Causes Hypertension?

Blood pressure is the force of the blood against the blood vessels. The normal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80 mmHg, and any deviation from this is considered unhealthy. A decrease in blood pressure is called hypotension, whereas an increase is called hypertension [8].

High blood pressure occurs when your blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels and is a common health issue [9]. Hypertension develops over the course of several years and may not show any symptoms. It can lead to severe health complications and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and sometimes death.

However, even in the absence of symptoms, the condition can cause damage to your blood vessels and organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys.

Here are some of the common causes of hypertension or high blood pressure [10]:

Primary hypertension, also called essential hypertension, develops over time and has no identifiable cause. Most people have this type of high blood pressure. Although the exact cause is unclear, some of the possible causes include genes, physical changes, unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Secondary hypertension develops occurs quickly and is more severe than primary hypertension. Some of the common causes of secondary hypertension are kidney disease, sleep apnoea, thyroid issues, alcohol abuse, side effects of medications, heart defects etc.


What Are The Symptoms Of Hypertension?

High blood pressure is defined as a silent condition as many people do not experience any symptoms [11]. Symptoms of severe hypertension can include the following:

  • Nose bleeding
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Blood in urine

How To Manage Hypertension?

As per the study, more women get treated for hypertension than men. The reason for this could be that many women are checked for their blood pressure during pregnancy. Also, women are more prone to stroke, influencing them to get their blood pressure checked regularly, especially after 40 years of age [12].

Hypertension treatment includes both medication and healthy lifestyle change, and if not treated, the condition could lead to health issues, including heart attack and stroke.

People can prevent high blood pressure by following a heart-healthy diet. Here's how you can do it:

  • Reduce salt intake
  • Include more fruits and vegetables
  • Reduce fat consumption
  • Control alcohol consumption
  • Watch your weight
  • DASH Diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet was developed to prevent or treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and reduce the risk of heart diseases in individuals who suffer from hypertension. The diet focuses on incorporating vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meat into one's daily diet [13].

    As per the researchers' understanding, people who followed diets rich in vegetables (plant-based diets), such as vegans and vegetarians, had a low risk of developing high blood pressure. This was considered while developing the diet, which can be witnessed in the diet's emphasis on fruits and vegetables as well as lean protein sources like chicken, fish and beans.

    DASH diet does not advise the intake of red meat, added sugars, fat and salt. The low consumption of salt promoted by the DASH diet is beneficial for people with high blood pressure.


On A Final Note…

The study findings indicate that it is important that everyone, irrespective of their gender, should regularly check their blood pressure (especially if you are over 40).