Stressing the need for increasing awareness about the ‘silent killer’ and helping people realise that it is a preventable and controllable condition, World Hypertension Day is observed in May. High stress levels, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits are some of the main reasons for hypertension in young people.
Prolonged hypertension, also known as, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for severe medical conditions such as coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, and even dementia. Conscious lifestyle modifications and medications can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of health complications.
Initiated by The World Hypertension League, World Hypertension Day is marked on May 17 every year.
History and significance:
Launched on on May 14, 2005, The World Hypertension League has been dedicating May 17 of every year as World Hypertension Day ever since 2006. While the inaugural theme in 2005 was ‘Awareness of high blood pressure’, in 2006 it was ‘Treat to goal’ and through different themes each year, the WHL intends to not only raise awareness about hypertension but also of its factors and prevention methods since it affects more than 30% of the adult population worldwide which accounts for more than one billion people around the world.
Hypertension is the main risk factor for cardiovascular diseases which include coronary heart disease and stroke. It is also responsible for triggering chronic kidney disease, heart failure, arrhythmia and dementia.
While the theme for World Hypertension Day for a period of five years, from 2013 to 2018, has been ‘Know Your Numbers’ that aimed at increasing high blood pressure awareness in all populations around the world, the theme in 2021 is ‘Measure your blood pressure, control it, live longer!’ to raise awareness especially in low to middle income areas and promote the accurate blood pressure measurement methods.
Importance amid Covid-19:
According to Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, Senior Cardiologist at Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, a growing body of research suggests that some people with hypertension, diabetes and heart disease may develop more severe symptoms and complications once infected with the coronavirus. “The pandemic is also leading to an increased prevalence of hypertension within all age groups. This is happening due to increased stress levels, lack of outdoor exercise due to frequent lock downs as well as unhealthy dietary patterns,” he stated. Stressing on the importance of managing and controlling high blood pressure during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Santosh added, “Blood pressure needs to be checked at regular intervals. If found elevated, it should be treated and efforts should be made to maintain it within the normal range.”
Dr Santosh recommended that managing prehypertension is the key. As per him, “Prehypertension is a stage when the systolic blood pressure is between 120 to 139 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure is between 80 to 89 mm Hg. Hypertension is considered to exist when systolic blood pressure is 140 mm Hg or more and diastolic BP is 90 mm Hg or more. In the prehypertension stage, one should try to control BP effectively.”
Here are some ways recommended by him to lower hypertension:
1. Exercise – Research suggests that active lifestyle can help lower your systolic blood pressure by an average of 4 to 9 mm Hg. Exercise helps you to maintain a healthy weight which in turn helps to control blood pressure. However it is important to keep exercising on a regular basis. Aerobics, flexibility and strength training exercises can help in the long run. As outdoor exercise is not possible these days due to covid restrictions, one should do indoor exercises like yoga, walking inside the house, Zumba dance etc. Adding a simple routine of dynamic exercise for 30 to 45 mins a day will help.
2. DASH diet – Eating a heart-healthy diet is important for managing your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and other diseases. Dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH) pattern of food is one of the effective ways to control hypertension. DASH diet consists of whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, low fat dairy products, lean meat and fish and low salt. Salt intake should be restricted to less than 2300 mg of sodium per day which is equivalent to one tablespoon of salt (5 gm). Avoid saturated and trans fats, and added sugar in your diet.
3. Don’t stop medication – When somebody is diagnosed to have hypertension (systolic blood pressure 140 or more and/or diastolic blood pressure 90 or more), then in addition to diet and exercise, medicines become a must. Medicines need to be increased step wise to keep the blood pressure within range. A common mistake many patients do is to stop the blood pressure medication once it is within normal range. It invariably goes back to the previous level if medicines are stopped. The blood pressure even may shoot up to a very high level leading to acute complications. Therefore prescribed blood pressure medicines should not be lowered or stopped without your physician’s advice.
4. Stop smoking – While smoking has not been conclusively proven to cause high blood pressure, each cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. For your overall health and to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, avoid all forms of tobacco as well as second-hand smoke.
5. Don’t drink – Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases. If you have high blood pressure, avoid alcohol or drink alcohol only in moderation.