By Dr. Magesh Balakrishnan, Consultant, Cardiologist, Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road (A unit of Manipal Hospitals)
Do you know hypertension is often called the ‘silent killer’? The reason is that it provides little evidence that it exists. Until the underlying high blood pressure provokes chronic problems like a heart attack or a stroke, the condition may go unnoticed in many.
In most cases hypertension does not show any signs or symptoms affecting predominantly the elderly and middle age. Most people may not be even aware that they have hypertension apart from few, who may experience symptoms like headache or sense of fullness in the head, uneasiness, disturbance in vision or vomiting. When high blood pressure is not recognised for long, the condition can get worse and symptoms of end organ damage begin to manifest. The organs predominantly affected are the brain, heart, kidney and eyes.
There are various factors which can lead to the onset of hypertension like stress, lifestyle, age and family history. The panic arising due to the current situation of Covid 19, job insecurity or stress due to working from home is impacting the health of people. In such scenario, sometimes a small change in health often tends to be ignored or get side lined. Also, the fear of visiting the hospital may persuade many to delay consulting a doctor. However, an individual can be more vigilant of the symptoms and act immediately to get an effective treatment.
Listed below are few of the lesser known symptoms of high blood pressure which one should be aware of:
Irregular heartbeat caused due to stiffening and dilation of the chambers of the heart
Vision problems like blurred vision or even loss of sight
Confusion and dizziness
Pain in the chest region ranging from a dull ache to a sharp stab
Breathing difficulty more noticeable during physical activity or exercising
People suffering from high blood pressure need to take extra precaution to stay healthy and away from the Covid infection. The first and foremost step here is to identify their health status and taking necessary actions. It is advised to do regular blood pressure screening even if you do not have any of the signs and symptoms of hypertension
What you can do to control blood pressure?
A healthy lifestyle has an active role in treating hypertension. It can help avoid/delay the onset of hypertension and reduce the chances for medication. Below are some of the lifestyle changes one can implement to lower blood pressure:
1. Regular exercise: If there is one thing which you can do to reduce the chances and control hypertension, then it is through exercise. All you have to do is engage yourself in any of the physical activity which you love- like walking, jogging, aerobics and gymming for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. It can help lower your blood pressure by 5-8mm Hg.
2. Limit sodium intake: It is advised to consume less than 2.3 grams of salt per day. This would translate to consumption of a teaspoon of salt in a day. Those with other additional medical conditions should consider 1.5 to 1.8 grams per day. Salt consumption within the above limits would translate to a 3-4 mm of Hg reduction in BP
3. Reduce weight: By reducing your weight you can significantly reduce blood pressure. It should be noted that for every 10kg of weight loss from your body, you are reducing blood pressure by 5-10 mm Hg.
4. Reduce stress: Stress and hypertension are closely related. Our body is naturally designed to handle stress temporarily but if you are always under stress, there is a spike in the hormones and sympathetic neural discharge that causes blood vessels to narrow and burdens your heart to pump harder. Hence Indulge in activities that help reduce your stress levels.
5. Choose healthy food: Take a diary and note down what you eat for a week. This will help you identify your actual eating habits and then alter them with a healthy diet. Choose a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Include more potassium in your diet. Say no to alcohol and tobacco consumption. When you head out for grocery shopping, read the labels and choose your food wisely.
The above measures will delay the onset of hypertension in the vulnerable population and bring about efficient control of blood pressure in those who are under medication.