Hypertension, also known as a Silent Killer, is the medical term to define high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure in adults is usually 120/80 mm of mercury, but blood pressure levels can go above 130/80 mmHg in people with Hypertension.
Your blood pressure depends on the amount of work being done by your heart. It is the force that is exerted by the blood against the walls of your blood vessels, and high amounts of it can lead to health risks like hypertension, cardiac issues, and strokes.
10.8% of all deaths in India are attributed to hypertension, with a higher prevalence in men in urban areas. Lifestyle choices and rapid urbanisation are the major contributing factors to hypertension, and more often than not, symptoms go unnoticed until the person suffers a stroke, heart attack, or other health issues.
What Are the Major Factors Contributing to Hypertension?
As a developing country, India is going through multiple changes - from urbanisation to lifestyle choices, we’re taking a plunge into sedentary lifestyle preferences which is affecting our mind and health in ways unimaginable. High blood pressure, leading to hypertension, is one of the many threats we are facing as a country.
Urbanisation is detrimental to health, especially in people who have migrated from rural to urban areas in search of better work opportunities and lifestyles. The shift from rural to urban areas reflect directly on sleep patterns, diets, and overall mental health, giving rise to cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, and poor mental health.
Increasing elderly population
Age is a major contributing factor for hypertension. With age, blood pressure increases gradually as your arteries become stiff and narrow, making it difficult to keep blood pressure level stable.
The severity of hypertension is directly affected by your nutritional choices. We consume fast foods and fatty foods in a much higher quantity than we used to previously, and any diet high in calories and sodium is a major contributing factor to increase blood pressure.
Our hectic work life, coupled with spending hours in commute and screen time, leads to physical inactivity, which in turn affects our blood pressure, leading to hypertension.
Lifestyle changes can help control your rising blood pressures and keep you healthy and active.
Here are some simple ways to control hypertension:
- Lose some weight: Being overweight, or being obese, is a crucial risk factor towards hypertension. It can also pose difficulty breathing while you’re sleeping (sleep apnea), which can further increase your blood pressure.
- Have an active lifestyle: Exercise at least 30 minutes a day to help keep your blood sugar levels in check. And if you already have high blood pressure, yoga and exercise can help reduce it by 5 to 8 mmHg.
- Switch to a healthy diet: Adding whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products can drastically improve your blood pressure levels. Skip processed foods and try to eat as fresh as possible on a daily basis. Other things you can do is keep a food diary to monitor your diet and add potassium-rich foods like legumes and fresh fruits.
- Reduce the intake of sodium: Sodium can create havoc with your blood pressure. Start using less salt in your foods, avoid processed foods, and choose low-sodium alternatives to foods you usually buy. Ease into this lifestyle gradually and you will see a difference in your blood pressure levels.
- Limit the consumption of alcohol: Moderate levels of alcohol consumption (1 drink a day for women and 2 for men) can help control your blood pressure. But if you’re a regular, heavy drinker, it can affect you adversely in more ways than one.
- Quit Smoking: Every time you finish a cigarette, your blood pressure rises. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of developing heart diseases and improve the quality of your overall health.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine: Although still debatable, caffeine can increase blood pressure levels in people who don’t consume it regularly. To check if you’re sensitive to caffeine, check your blood pressure 30 minutes after you’ve taken any caffeinated beverage. However, if you’re a regular coffee drinker, you may or may not be affected by caffeine.
- Try to manage stress: Chronic stress can lead to a rise in blood pressure levels. An occasional burst of stressful episodes can also heighten your blood pressure level, leading to hypertension. Take time to analyse your stress triggers and devise ways to combat it effectively. Practice yoga and meditation, adopt a hobby and do things that help you release the stress.
- Monitor your blood pressure regularly: Keep checking your blood pressure at regular intervals and do routine trips to the doctor to ensure your body is balanced in terms of overall health parameters. If you experience any signs of hypertension such as frequent sweating, anxiety, or sleeping disturbances, consult your doctor at the earliest.
Hypertension can be controlled and managed with simple and conscious lifestyle changes. Most of the time, we tend to overlook small signs that our body gives us. It is imperative we keep track of our lifestyle preferences and take care of our health before it’s too late.