World Hypertension Day: How to keep your blood pressure under check

On the occasion of World Hypertension Day on May 17, heart experts at Asian Heart Institute share seven heart-healthy tips to help keep your blood pressure in check

doctor checking patients blood pressure
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Hypertension is also called ‘the silent killer’ because high blood pressure often causes no symptoms for a long time.

“Hypertension, in addition to a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and nicotine use, is a major contributing risk factor for heart disease. Prevalence of hypertension in young individuals is on the rise. One of the main reasons is that they are less likely to seek medical attention, as they feel that they are fit and fine. It can, thus, remain undetected for a long time,” shares Dr Ramakanta Panda, world’s leading heart surgeon, and vice chairman, Asian Heart Institute.

Unfortunately, some people may not realise they have high blood pressure until they experience a heart attack, a stroke, kidney damage, or other serious health problem.

Unregulated hypertension also increases the risk of erectile dysfunction in young men. Therefore, regular blood pressure check-ups are necessary. Patients who suffer from an existing condition of hypertension apart from checking their blood pressure, need to follow the intake of prescribed medication regularly.

“A person is known to be hypertensive when his/her blood pressure remains more than 140 mm Hg systolic and 90 mm Hg diastolic. If you have never diagnosed with hypertension, and you have no other serious medical problems, the American Heart Association recommends that you have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years,” adds Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, senior cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute.

Data reveals that the prevalence of hypertension among the urban middle class is 32% in men and 30% in women.

One should try every possible means to prevent hypertension as there is no complete cure for it. Lifestyle modification is a crucial medium here. Following are some useful recommendations to prevent and/or treat hypertension.

Follow a DASH Diet: The diet should contain low fat, less salt, and more vegetables and fruits along with whole grain cereals. The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) eating pattern helps to prevent hypertension which consists of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, no fat or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grain foods, fish, poultry, beans, and seeds, as well as unsalted nuts.

No substitute for regular exercise: Regular exercise is as important as taking medicines. Exercise not only helps control your blood pressure but also aids weight loss, blood sugar regulation, and stress management — all of which are key for a healthy heart. One should do aerobic exercises regularly for around 45 minutes to one hour daily for at least five days a week. Exercise such as brisk walking, stair climbing, jogging, running, and swimming can help you stay fit.

Weight loss is a must: Obesity is one of the risk factors for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. With the increase in body weight, blood pressure can also rise. On the other hand, even a small amount of weight loss can help to prevent as well as regulate high blood pressure. Weight is considered healthy when the Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 20 and 25.

Managing stress is the key: Mayo Clinic suggests that even though there is no proof that stress by itself causes long-term blood pressure, however, reacting to it in unhealthy ways can increase your risk of hypertension. For example, stress-inducing habits such as smoking, drinking, and junk food consumption can have cascading effects on your blood pressure.

Therefore, one should know to manage stress. Yoga, meditation, adequate sleep, and positive thinking are some of the strategies to manage stress. Yoga can improve sleep, reduce stress hormone levels in the body, which helps in bringing down the blood pressure. If needed, one should consult a stress management expert for advice.

Avoid alcohol: Excess alcohol consumption can lead to hypertension. It is better to avoid alcohol. If consumed, it is advisable to limit the intake to one or two drinks per week only.

Say no to smoking: Smoking may risk other diseases, including hypertension, and should be stopped. Research suggests that every cigarette increases your blood pressure for minutes after you finish. For your overall health, and to reduce heart attack risk and stroke, avoid tobacco, and passive smoking.

Know your numbers: As one age, hypertension becomes almost inevitable. The prevalence of hypertension increases with advancing age to the point of being 50 percent in people within the range of 60–69 years of age, and approximately 75 percent in those being 70 years of age and older.

Therefore, it is crucial to track Blood Pressure, and it is preferable to have a BP monitor at home, especially, if there are elderly at home. Home BP monitor usually comes in a digital format. Many companies produce home BP monitors. However, they should be calibrated at regular intervals to maintain their accuracy.