Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, affects lakhs of individuals in India, from children to older adults. It is extremely likely that at some point in your life you will have high blood pressure. At the same time the vast majority of people have no symptoms and it is estimated that as many as 1 in 6 people who have hypertension have no idea that they have it. Because it goes undetected is so prevalent, and has severe health consequences, it is often referred to as a “silent” killer.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common cardiovascular disease in the country similar to the pressure needed to send air through a tube, hypertension as a condition where the pressure your blood puts on your artery walls is higher than normal ranges for a sustained period of time. Your blood needs pressure to travel through your arteries. Just like too much pressure can damage a tire, high blood pressure can lead to a number of health conditions including potentially life-threatening conditions like stroke. Illnesses or medications that narrow the arteries increase high blood pressure. This is also why high blood pressure is so much more common with older adults. As we age, our arteries narrow meaning the same amount of pressure in a regular sized artery is equivalent to high blood pressure in a narrowed artery.
There are two types of hypertension. Essential hypertension is where the underlying cause of the high blood pressure is unknown, which may be as many as 95% of cases. Secondary hypertension is when the direct cause of the high blood pressure can be determined. Common causes include kidney disease, tumors and birth control pills and pregnancy in women. Both of these types depend on your medical history and increase in likelihood with certain demographic factors and personal traits.
High blood pressure is more common in certain demographic groups: African-Americans, lower income, men, individual older than 55. Certain traits also increase your likelihood of having high blood pressure:
- Overweight: Being more than 15% of the healthy weight for your body mass increases your likelihood of getting high blood pressure significantly. Obese people develop high blood pressure two to six times more often than healthy individuals.
- Heavy alcohol drinkers: Those who drink more than two drinks a day have higher rates of high blood pressure than those who do not.
- Inactive: Being inactive contributes to obesity and high blood pressure.
- Smokers: Smoking negatively affects key body functions, including your ability to exercise and therefore also contributes to obesity and high blood pressure.