At least 30 percent of all Indians develop blood pressure by the age of sixty (few studies report up to 50 percent). As a result of their lifestyle, younger individuals and business men develop blood pressure before the age of forty, which begs the question: Can one avoid or minimise the dangers of blood pressure? Absolutely.
What is Blood Pressure?
The function of the cardiovascular system is to deliver nutrition and oxygen via blood to the body. To get blood to circulate throughout the entire body from head to toe, it requires to be pumped at an adequate pressure, measured as blood pressure. As a consequence of ageing or unhealthy lifestyle, and conditions such as diabetes, the blood vessels that carry blood become stiffer and less elastic thus increasing the pressure within causing high blood pressure.
Pressures of 120/80 mmHg are considered normal. Anything more than 140/90 mmHg are termed as high blood pressure or hypertension. Values in between are considered to be pre-hypertension.
Sustained high blood pressure results in damage to the lining of blood vessels leading to deposition of cholesterol and block formation. This sets the stage to develop heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and gangrene of the limbs.
Risk factors for developing blood pressure include:
Smoking, Obesity, High stress, Excess alcohol (more than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men), High salt diet, Family history, Diabetes.
Medical conditions that may lead to blood pressure:
Kidney disease, Disorders of the adrenal gland, Hypetension in pregnancy, Birth control pills, diet pills, steroids, some cold medications, and migraine medications, Narrowed artery that supplies blood to the kidney, Hyperparathyroidism.
Control the modifiable
Stopping smoking immediately reduces your blood pressure. Weight loss, low salt diet, avoiding food high in salt such as pappads, pickles, chips etc will also make a significant impact. Thirty-minutes of brisk walking has been proven to reduce blood pressure. Controlling stress by yoga, meditation, exercise and lifestyle change has a positive impact on blood pressure management. Those on medication must continue without skipping doses, in order to lead a healthy life. Ensure that your blood pressure is checked regularly and medication adjusted. Controlling the risk factors that cause BP and living healthy can help a lot of people to avoid blood pressure.
Ask Dr Rao
How often should BP be checked?
Once every six months is sufficient to detect for blood pressure. Checking every day or once a week is not advisable as this would increase anxiety.
Can we stop BP medicines once pressure is under control?
Medication for blood pressure is usually prescribed lifelong. The pressure becomes normal as a result of the medication and a sudden discontinuation may result in life threatening rebound hypertension.
Is a home monitor useful?
Electronic home BP monitors, though are not very accurate, can provide a trend of blood pressure and are useful.
How important is stress?
Stress causes the blood vessels to narrow resulting in higher blood pressure. It is as bad as smoking and diabetes, and causes damage to the blood vessels.