Left unchecked, high BP can lead to stroke, heart attack
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition characterised by abnormally high pressure exerted by the blood on artery walls.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition characterised by abnormally high pressure exerted by the blood on artery walls. It is defined as having a blood pressure reading above 140/90, and in severe cases exceeding 180/120. High blood pressure puts additional strain on the heart, resulting in the thickening of the left ventricle and increasing the risk of heart attack, heart failure and sudden cardiac death, writes Ketan Tanna. Although often asymptomatic, untreated hypertension can lead to serious health complications such as heart diseases and strokes.
According to the latest survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research-India Diabetes (ICMR-INDIAB), about 315 million people in India are identified as hypertensive. The survey included 113,043 individuals - 33,537 from urban areas and 79,506 from rural areas - across 31 states and union territories. States like Kerala, Puducherry, Goa, Sikkim, and Punjab reported the highest prevalence of non-communicable diseases, including hypertension. The prevalence of hypertension varied between 24.3% and 51.8% across different states.
Cause for concern
The situation is alarming as only 12% of the estimated 220 million people living with hypertension in India have their blood pressure under control. According to Dr Roderico H Ofrin, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to India, hypertension is responsible for more adult deaths than any other factor. Studies indicate that around 33% of urban and 25% of rural Indians suffer from hypertension, but only a quarter of rural patients and approximately 42% of urban Indians are aware of their condition. Among those aware, treatment rates are also low, with only 25% of rural and 38% of urban Indians receiving treatment for hypertension.
Young Indians at risk
A cross-sectional observational survey conducted with 2,287 clinicians, including cardiologists, diabetologists, consultant physicians and family physicians, revealed an increasing prevalence of hypertension among young adults in India. According to 64.8% of the clinicians surveyed, hypertension prevalence ranged from 10% to 30% among young individuals. The top three risk factors identified for hypertension in this group were smoking, mental stress and obesity.
India's hypertension problem is influenced by various factors, including sodium-rich Indian diet, genetics, socioeconomic conditions and lifestyle choices. A collaborative research project by AIIMS and the University of North Carolina found that a significant portion of the 10,500 ultra-processed food products in the Indian market contain excessive salt and saturated fats, contributing to hypertension. Only 32% of these products adhere to WHO standards.
The Indian government aims to reduce hypertension prevalence to 25% by 2025 through the Indian Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI). However, only about 12% of Indians with hypertension currently have controlled blood pressure. Treating individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is crucial, and scaling up hypertension treatment and control could save millions of lives in the next decade. To manage hypertension, adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, maintaining healthy weight and scheduling regular check-ups are crucial.