Blood pressure is a marker of heart health. Its purpose is to maintain organ blood flow so that nutrition can be delivered to all parts of body according to needs. It is an oscillating mechanical wave traveling in our arteries. Its peak is called systolic blood pressure and the nadir is called diastolic pressure. Typical numerical values in adults are 120-139 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 70-89 mmHg for diastolic pressure. However these figures are arbitrary based upon variable facts. Blood pressure is a continuum. However, every number has to have a normal range and above this threshold, blood pressure becomes high or so-called hypertension. High blood pressure is causally associated with paralytic strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure and blindness.
High blood pressure affects one-fifth of mankind and accounts for every eighth death in adults. Based upon surveys, it is assumed that at least about two hundred fifty million Indians suffer from high blood pressure. It accounts for half of all strokes and one-fourth of all heart attacks. It is the first or second most common cause of kidney failure. Nearly seventy percent patients with heart failure have high blood pressure as one of the risk factors. Health burden of high blood pressure is staggering. It is tragic that only one-third of Indians are aware of their high blood pressure of which only 1/3 are regularly treated and control of blood pressure in desired range is in about 10% subjects with hypertension. The problem is high blood pressure is a silent disease and there is hardly any motivation for taking measures for a problem which is apparently not harming us by way of producing physical discomfort for a long time. Appearance of symptoms usually marks the end of the road.
So what should be done in our society? We must create more facilities to make unassisted automatic blood pressure measurements every where and any where and not merely in clinics and hospitals. Automatic blood pressure measurement with validated and approved equipments is the order of the day. Once repeated readings show abnormalcy , measures must be taken to manage it. Measures include low salt diet, regular exercise, weight reduction, cessation of smoking and excessive alcohol intake followed by inexpensive , safe and widely available drugs or drug-combinations. Generic medicines are very cheap in India and currently used drugs are almost harmless if taken properly under some supervision. Periodic check-ups to see the health of organs under threat like kidneys, heart , brain, eyes etc is important because the involvement of the organs indicates need for intensive therapy as there may be lapses in existing treatment.
Let us create awareness about high blood pressure and its consequences. Its appropriate control will make us a healthier society.