High Blood Pressure – a Common Problem among Many Adults in India

High BP or high blood pressure is a common disorder which is bothering most of the adult group. Especially in countries like India, people are more prone to high blood pressure due to their diverse food habits. According to a study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, nearly 13.9 crore Indians were suffering from high blood pressure at the end of 2008. The number of people suffering from BP, rose by 8.7 crore from 1980-2008. Another Indian study, ‘Screening India’s Twin Epidemic (SITE)’, found that one in every five Indian adults in urban cities suffers from high blood pressure (also called as hypertension).

As high blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart diseases, stroke, blood clots, etc., it is important for everyone to have basic knowledge about the causes, symptoms and preventive measures in order to save themselves from getting affected. Following is some useful information which everyone should know about blood pressure.

What is blood pressure?

Heart pumps blood to different parts of the body with the help of blood vessels. Arteries are the blood vessels which carry oxygenated blood from the heart to all the vital organs. While pumping blood into the arteries, the heart pushes it with some force which is nothing but the Blood Pressure. The pressure generated when the heart contracts, in order to pump the blood is called as Systolic pressure which is usually high. Diastolic pressure is the blood pressure when the heart is in the relaxed state and hence it is low.

Categories of blood pressure levels

  • Normal blood pressure: A healthy person will have a normal blood pressure which is below or equal to 120 over 80 (120/80 mmHg). The top number (120) represents systolic pressure and the bottom number (80) represents diastolic pressure. 120/80 mmHg is known as the ideal blood pressure, at which we have a lower risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Low blood pressure (Hypotension): Low blood pressure happens when the blood flow is quite low. As a result, sufficient amount of oxygen is not supplied to the body parts, which makes them dysfunctional. If the blood pressure is 90/60 mmHg or lower, then it is called as low blood pressure. People with low blood pressure often faint or feel giddiness.
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension): High blood pressure is the condition in which the blood pressure inside the arteries is elevated. If the blood pressure is above 140/90mmHg, then it is called high blood pressure. This high blood pressure puts extra strain on the heart and blood vessels leading to the increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

As high blood pressure is the main cause for different cardiovascular diseases, strokes and other disorders, let us know few more important things about it.

Causes of high blood pressure

There are no particular or significant causes for high blood pressure. The risk factors that cause hypertension vary from person to person. However, there are few factors which could increase the chances of developing this disorder.

  • Overweight or obesity: Leading sedentary lifestyle and adopting fast food culture are the main causes of obesity. People suffering from obesity are more likely to develop hypertension and other health related problems.
  • Higher salt intake: Salt sensitivity is one of the main causes for high blood pressure. Increased salt intake increases the risk of developing heart attacks, cardiovascular events, among those who already have high blood pressure. The sodium present in the salt causes fluid retention and hence increases the pressure around the blood vessels.
  • Alcohol and smoking:Prolonged alcohol usage increases the stress on the heart and blood vessels, which leads to hypertension and other chronic disorders.Similarly smoking also elevates the blood pressure. Smoking increases the risk of secondary cardiovascular complications and kidney disorders to a person having high blood pressure.
  • Stress: Busy lifestyle, work pressure, family problems, loneliness, etc., are some of the reasons of stress in our day-to-day life. Long-term or chronic stress encourages the release of stress hormone called Cartisol, which in turn leads to increased blood pressure.
  • Age and hereditary: Getting older can also be a reason which causes high blood pressure. Men are prone to develop it between the age of 35-55 years and women after the menopausal stage. If your parents or other blood relatives have high blood pressure, then you too have increased chances of developing it.
  • Diet: Choosing a diet which lacks fruits, vegetables and which is full of high fat foods, dairy products, animal fats, etc., increases the blood cholesterol levels and hence leads to high blood pressure.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

High blood pressure is often termed as ‘silent killer’, as it seldom shows signs and symptoms. A person can survive with hypertension for years without knowing about it. However, it occasionally shows few symptoms like dizziness, dimmed vision, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, and fainting. In emergency situations it shows recognizable symptoms like blurred vision, headache, confusion, anxiety, drowsiness, vomiting, chest pain, etc., which require immediate medical attention.

Effects of high blood pressure

High and uncontrolled blood pressure in the blood vessels and heart lead to different health complications.

  • Heart attacks: The increased pressure on the arteries results in hardening, thickening, enlarging and bulging of blood vessels which lead to heart attacks.
  • Heart failure: High pressure developed in the blood vessels make the heart to work hard in order to pump the blood into the arteries, which leads to the thickening of heart muscles. The thickened muscles fail to do the necessary task resulting in heart failure.
  • Stroke: Excessive pressure also develops some clots in the vessels which lead to the lack of blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which is nothing but a stroke.
  • Other effects: Narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys and eyes lead to improper functioning of these organs. High blood pressure can also cause peripheral arterial disease that affects your legs.

In our next article, we will know how to prevent high blood pressure.

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