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World Hypertension Day 2021: A reminder to check your numbers

Image ID: 41664023 (L). Image credit: Levente Gyori / 123rf. Used for World Hypertension Day 2021
A doctor measures for high blood pressure. Image credit: Levente Gyori / 123rf

Hypertension – raised blood pressure – is a major public health crisis in India, being a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) – the country’s dominant killer. World Hypertension Day 2021 is an opportunity to stress the importance of checking your numbers, for the betterment of one’s health. 

As previously noted by Health Issues India, “raised blood pressure — or hypertension — is considered the leading risk factor for morbidity and mortality in India…despite being one of the conditions of greatest concern in India, many remain unaware of the fact they are living with the disease. This is not unsurprising as many factors can induce hypertension, from diet, lack of exercise, stress, low amounts of sleep; even age plays a role. Due to the considerable list of risk factors for the condition, there are very few who lead lifestyles that rid them of the risk of developing it at some point during their lives.”

The gravity of the situation cannot be understated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “nearly 63 percent of total deaths in India are due to noncommunicable diseases, of which 27 percent  are attributed to cardiovascular disease which affects 45 percent  people in the 40-69 age group. Raised blood pressure is among the most important risk factors for CVDs. Moreover, it remains poorly controlled due to low awareness about hypertension, lack of appropriate care through primary care and poor follow up.” The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has estimated that 10.8 percent of deaths in India are attributable to hypertension. 

As such, it is concerning to say the least that so many Indians are unaware they are living with the condition. According to a 2019 study, “hypertension is widely prevalent in India with large regional variation, greater prevalence in urban areas and the young. Treatment and control status are low. Diabetes is [an] important comorbidity and resistant hypertension is frequent.” Exacerbating the problem is the fact that hypertension has been on the rise. As reported by Health Issues India in 2019

“One study which compared cross-sectional surveys in urban and rural areas from 1991 to 1994 and 2010 to 2012 found a rise of 23.0 percent to 42.2 percent and 11.2 percent to 28.9 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively. This reflects that hypertension is showing a significant increase over time.”

World Hypertension Day 2021 serves to revitalise the conversation as to why it is important to know your numbers and be aware of the risk factors for hypertension. According to Dr Subhojit Dey, of the estimated 224 million people affected by hypertension in India, eight percent control their blood pressure. “One of the major problems when it comes to hypertension is knowledge and people do not get screened regularly,” Dr Dey previously told Health Issues India. “People have no idea what the warning signs are.”

High blood pressure Infographics design template, icon vector illustration. An infographic outlining some of the risk factors for high blood pressure. Image credit: Sayan Bunard / 123rf
An infographic outlining some of the risk factors for high blood pressure. Image credit: Sayan Bunard / 123rf

Heightened awareness is key. As Health Issues India explained in a disease profile, “hypertension can take place without symptoms. It is only when blood pressure rises to extreme levels that it typically causes noticeable issues. For this reason it tends to go unnoticed in many individuals. Where symptoms do become apparent, they typically include headaches, chest pain, fatigue, an irregular heart beat, or blood in the urine. Some of these symptoms may be confused for other conditions and so the best way of detecting the disease is regular checkups with a doctor.” 

For treatment and prevention, we noted “prevention is the best method for combating hypertension. This can be done through avoiding risk factors and following healthy habits such as eating a healthy diet and regular exercise. Medications are available that can reduce blood pressure and treat hypertension. Some of the more commonly used medications are beta blockers, thiazide diuretics and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These all fulfil a similar role in reducing overall blood pressure, though do so via differing chemical mechanisms.” 

This is to say nothing of the importance of measuring one’s blood pressure. As the WHO states

“Measurement of blood pressure is quick and painless. Written as two numbers, the first (systolic) number represents pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats and second (diastolic) number represents pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats. Hypertension is diagnosed if, when measured twice on different days, systolic blood pressure on both readings is ≥140 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure on both readings is ≥90 mmHg. It is important to know one’s blood pressure reading by checking it regularly, adopting a healthy lifestyle and staying on prescribed treatment to reduce hypertension and its complications.”

Sustained awareness campaigns and observances such as World Hypertension Day 2021 are vital when it comes to combating hypertension and comorbidities such as diabetes. The ICMR in the past has collaborated with the WHO on reducing the instance of high blood pressure in India. To bring down hypertension rates, raising awareness, encouraging healthy lifestyles, and promoting the importance of knowing your numbers is a must. 

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