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Hypertension: India’s biggest risk factor

Heart disease is India’s biggest killer, but is hypertension the underlying driving mechanism behind India’s most common killer?

heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in India — hypertension is one of its main risk factors

Dr Nirmal Jaiswal, ICU Director at Suretech Hospital and Research Institute states that there is a substantial need for the improvement of detection and management of hypertension in order to prevent chronic diseases and associated mortalities. A lack of diagnosis during the early stages of hypertension could indeed be a major contributing factor to India’s surge in noncommunicable disease (NCD) cases.

Hypertension is a concerning condition in its own right. The condition can remain asymptomatic until blood pressure rates are at extreme levels — and at a point where damage to the body has already taken place. Where this occurs symptoms may include headaches, chest pain, fatigue, an irregular heart beat, or blood in the urine.

However, it is the capacity for hypertension to act as a driver of other conditions that place it as a major healthcare concern. Hypertension not only increases the risk of conditions such as heart disease, but also diabetes and strokes. As a result the chance of mortality at a younger age is drastically raised in those with high blood pressure.

Age is a major risk factor in developing hypertension. However, Indians have been found to be testing positive for hypertension at younger ages than in other nations. This would suggest either a genetic susceptibility to the condition — as seen in diabetes among the Indian population — or a lifestyle aspect that is triggering the condition.

Lifestyle change may well be the driver behind the hypertension and NCD crisis. India is quickly shifting towards a prevalence in so-called “western lifestyles” in which manual labour is far less prevalent and many take up sedentary jobs in offices. A lack of exercise, combined with unhealthy dietary habits within urban areas — in which processed, calorie-dense food is the norm — all contribute as risk factors for NCDS.

Overweight and obesity are major contributors toward the burden of hypertension and are estimated to account for approximately 26 to 28 percent of hypertension cases. Fortunately, many of these risk factors are able to be changed. Simply adopting a healthy diet and ensuring adequate amounts of exercise can play a considerable role in alleviating the risks of hypertension.

Providing the public with information regarding the risks of hypertension, as well as ways in which to reduce factors contributing towards it may be a simply, yet effective way of reducing disease instance. This, in turn, could significantly bring down rates of other conditions such as heart disease.

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