Out of the many illnesses that deteriorate the quality of human health, non-communicable diseases have been identified as a common threat known to cause the highest number of deaths today. Non-communicable diseases are also known as non-infectious diseases and are not transmitted through micro-organisms.
High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and fatty liver are the four main non-communicable diseases people fall victim to. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a rising health-risk in our country which 20% of the population suffers from. A vast majority of patients with hypertension are above 40 years of age. Speaking to the Health Capsule, Dr. Pradeep Kumarasinghe De Silva, Consultant Physician of the Colombo National Hospital, shed light on the causes, consequences and control of hypertension.
What is hypertension?
The normal blood pressure of an adult is 120/80 mmhg. Hypertension is basically high blood pressure which is sustained at a higher level than the normal set level.
Hypertension is classified as essential hypertension and secondary hypertension. The most common form of hypertension which 96-97% patients suffer from is essential hypertension, a disease condition that is not a result of another disease and is mainly due to lifestyle habits. The age group of patients that suffer from essential hypertension is generally 40 years and above.
Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that arises as a result of other health conditions such as kidney, blood vessel and endocrine disease. 3-4% suffer from secondary hypertension. Patients in this category include people above as well as below 40 years.
Causes for Hypertension
According to Dr. Kumarasinghe, the main cause for hypertension is a person’s lifestyle habits. Lack of exercise, bad food habits and diets with high calories, high salt, high fat and sugar levels, mental stress and anger are negative lifestyle traits that pave the way to high blood pressure. Genetic factors are also responsible for hypertension. If you have a family history of hypertension, chances are you are more likely to be diagnosed with high pressure. Hypertension is also an aftermath of various diseases such as kidney and endocrine problems.
Diagnosis of hypertension
Hypertension is an asymptomatic condition, meaning a vast majority of high blood pressure patients may not show symptoms. “A minority may show symptoms such as headaches and dizziness. On most occasions, patients will not show symptoms and will remain oblivious to the fact that they are hypertension patients, so I advise people to get their blood pressure checked when they reach the age of 40.”
Dr. Kumarasinghe mentioned that one blood pressure reading alone cannot confirm hypertension. “Several readings have to be taken. Just because a reading taken in one instance indicates high blood pressure, this does not mean that you are a hypertension patient. A series of readings are taken at different times. If all readings are above the normal level, then it can be confirmed that you suffer from hypertension.”
How to control hypertension
Hypertension is one of those lifelong diseases that can never be cured. The only solution is keeping your blood pressure under control. This is done through the use of pharmaceutical drugs and changes in lifestyle patterns. Regular exercise is essential. Additionally, a change in daily diet also has to be made. Food with high fibre content and low salt levels with less calories and less fat should be consumed. A peaceful mindset and avoidance of stress should also be maintained. Yoga and meditation are advised in this case. A patient suffering from hypertension will be put on medication.
Pharmaceutical drugs will help keep blood pressure under control. But Dr. Kumarasinghe said the use of these drugs was not temporary. Medicine has to be taken permanently throughout one’s life, as hypertension is a disease that cannot be cured and hence should always be kept under control. Blood pressure can be controlled as long as medication is taken, but once it is stopped, blood pressure will rise again. Some drugs belonging to the category known as beta blockers can aggravate asthma and cause other problems. A doctor will be able to select the suitable drug according to the patient’s health history.
Why is it important to get your blood pressure checked?
A vast majority of hypertension patients do not show symptoms and hence do not prompt for medication. Dr. Kumarasinghe strongly advises against this. “High blood pressure could lead to more fatal conditions such as strokes, heart problems, kidney and eye diseases. These may occur without warning. Blood pressure should always be kept under control.
Non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and fatty liver are often interconnected. You cannot isolate one condition. Once a patient is subjected to hypertension, there is always the possibility of the patient becoming vulnerable to diabetes and high cholesterol as well. So, early detection is of vital importance. Management of hypertension is essential to avoid other dreaded conditions. Don’t wait for symptoms to manifest. By then it might be too late.