Uncontrolled high blood pressure or hypertension increases the risk of heart diseases, stroke, kidney damage, vision loss and heart failure. In fact, high BP is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke.
High BP can be managed by implementing some lifestyle changes or by certain medicines or with a combination of both. The major problem that gets highlighted quite often is that most of the people getting treated for high BP stop taking their medicines or stop following the recommended lifestyle changes in between because their BP levels are in control and they “feel” fine.
Well, your BP levels are fine because the medicines and the lifestyle changes are working. Stopping them may again put your blood pressure levels off the edge. Hence, you must keep taking the medicines and following the lifestyle interventions religiously.
This world heart day, let’s understand the unknown facts about high BP and how it affects your vital organs like heart.
Fact 1. Young people can develop high BP too.
As per a research done in 2018, 1 in 5 young Indian adults has high BP which is equivalent to 80 million people. This number is more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. The lifestyle of young people today is mostly sedentary. The lack of physical activity, increased stress levels, unchecked intake of unhealthy food are some lifestyle problems that are accelerating the risk of developing high BP. Anyone aged 18 should get their BP checked once every 2 years. Ask your doctor to check your BP levels every year if you’re 40 or older or if you’re 18 to 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure.
Fact 2: Blood pressure doesn’t have any symptoms.
High blood pressure majorly doesn’t cause any symptoms and is hence known as a silent killer. The lack of any symptoms makes people believe that they’re fine and as a result, they don’t check their blood pressure levels as frequently as may be required. You must keep tracking your blood pressure levels as that is the only way to know if you have it.
Fact 3. If you have high BP and are experiencing headaches and nosebleeds, check immediately.
Some people believe that headache and nosebleeds are common symptoms of high BP. But contrarily, having these symptoms is a sign that you need immediate medical attention as these two symptoms occur in case of a medical emergency when a person’s blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or higher. This is known as hypertensive crisis. Such a situation demands immediate medical care.
Fact 4. High BP can impact brain functioning.
High blood pressure reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, reducing cognitive functioning and increasing the risk of dementia. Prolonged high blood pressure may even block the blood vessels, causing stroke. Dementia may also occur due to a stroke.
Fact 5. Women can develop high BP too.
People often argue that women don’t have the risk of developing high BP, but the fact is until 65 years of age, men are more likely to develop hypertension whereas after 65, women are more likely to get high blood pressure. Birth control pills, pregnancy and menopause put a woman at risk of developing high blood pressure.
Fact 6. High BP doesn’t affect only the aggressive and tense people.
When anyone around us loses their temper, we often promptly reply asking them to lower their temper or they may develop high BP. Though prolonged stress increases the risk of high BP, this condition can affect even the calm and composed ones. The main risk factors of hypertension include:
– Family history: High BP usually runs in families. If your parents or siblings had it, you may have it too.
– Increasing age: With an increase in age our heart loses its efficiency, thereby causing an increase in blood pressure
– Being obese or overweight: Being obese or overweight makes your heart work harder to pump blood around your body, increasing the stress on your blood vessels and causing high BP over time.
– Unhealthy diet: Taking high salt processed foods increases the intake of salt or sodium which increases the risk of hypertension. Make sure to include moderate amounts of potassium-rich food such as bananas, dates, avocados in your diet as this mineral helps regulate the amount of sodium present in your body. Potassium may not be recommended for people with kidney problems.
– Excessive alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol intake has been seen to increase a person’s blood pressure levels. Women should take only 1 drink a day while men should stick to not more than 2 drinks a day. A drink is one 12 ounce of beer (355 ml), 4 ounce of wine (118 ml), 1.5 ounce of 80-proof spirits (44 ml) .
– Smoking: It can damage your lungs, heart and blood vessels. Nicotine increases your blood pressure and inhaling the carbon monoxide emitted while smoking tobacco reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood.
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High BP may silently sneak into your life and increase your risk of fatal diseases like heart attack and stroke. Screening for high blood pressure from time to time can help in detecting it before it becomes too late. If detected early, hypertension can be managed without any medicines.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
 One in five young adults in India has high blood pressure. European Society of Cardiology. https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/One-in-five-young-adults-in-India-has-high-blood-pressure
 Blood pressure test. Mayoclinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blood-pressure-test/about/pac-20393098#:~:text=You%20should%20have%20a%20blood,stroke%2C%20starting%20at%20age%2018.
High Blood Pressure and Women. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/high-blood-pressure-and-women
 Alcohol use: Weighing risks and benefits. Mayoclinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551#:~:text=Moderate%20alcohol%20use%20for%20healthy,5%20fluid%20ounces%20(148%20milliliters)
 Facts about giving up smoking. Healthy WA. https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/Facts-about-giving-up-smoking