Pausing The Flow: New Guidelines To Control Blood Pressure

by Kshitiz - Oct 2, 2015 11:56 PM +05:30 IST
Pausing The Flow: New Guidelines To Control Blood Pressure

How to impede the risk of cardiovascular diseases in a rapidly developing India. 

India possess the unique feature of being at the receiving end of two types of health infirmities. Firstly the poor man’s diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, malaria are taking hundreds of lives each year. Secondly even the so-called “rich world” chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and even heart attack are claiming significant number of victims. Thus at least we are at the forefront of sufferings so to speak.

High blood pressure also known as the “silent killer” now affects more than a billion people worldwide, and nearly a quarter of India’s population. The term silent killer is fitting since it seriously increases chances of heart attack without producing any noticeable symptom, and can continue to damage blood vessels for decades without any external effect.

It is fair to state that apart from diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the leading causes of death in India. Hence quickly controlling it becomes vital.

A habit of ignorance

When life is a constant race in accomplishing minor milestones, it is easy to put one’s health in the backseat. As middle class India becomes more prosperous and materially affluent, health and moments of rest have receded into the wilderness. Accordingly, obesity, diabetes, as well as mental stress play a large part in comfortable lives. The connection is becoming so blunt that soon bad health will be an indicator of prosperity. Mental stress, and bad lifestyle choices are among the leading causes of high blood pressure.

What can we do about it?  Actually, quite a few things: first get yourself checked, even if you feel healthy in every possible way. Add to that eating less salt, and exercising regularly. But just in case none of these steps work, should medication be considered?

Pausing The Flow: New Guidelines To Control Blood Pressure

The answer is yes. Especially if lifestyle changes fail to bring any positive effect medical intervention is highly necessary. A recent report from one of the breakthrough studies carried out by National Institutes of Health highlights the need to change our perspective on treating hypertension.

This new study indicates that aggressively targeting blood pressure (below 120mm systolic) reduced the rate of cardiovascular events (such as heart attack and heart failure as well as stroke) by nearly a third. Further, even chances of death are reduced by a quarter compared to when the target was 140mm.The study suggested a more aggressive treatment for high blood pressure medically, and if possible with lifestyle changes.

How to stem the flow

I personally advise everyone, even the healthy individuals, to get their blood pressure checked. If like me you are on the high side (target is: 120mm for systolic, and 80mm for diastolic), take immediate steps to control it. Start taking steps to reduce weight, in the form of regular exercise. Reduce salt intake, particularly from items where it is easy to do without sacrificing taste, like chapatis.

And it is important that you learn to relax. Reduce your physical stress through yoga, music or even by spending time with your family. And if that does not do the trick, ask your doctor for medication. Most medicines prescribed for blood pressure for healthy individuals will do a miniscule harm compared to what high blood pressure would cause.

One of the most thorough studies done on the subject plainly suggest an aggressive and sustained management of blood pressure. It is imperative that these guidelines to counter a disease affecting a quarter our country be taken seriously. This is one metric where a bit of stress is worth it!

Kshitiz is a Research Professor at Yale University working in Cancer and Stem Cell Biology. He is also a writer, bharatantyam dancer, and the author of the book “The Revenge of Shakuni”.
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