In the last 30 years, the prevalence of hypertension has seen a massive increase among people of different age groups. When it comes to India, the condition has affected millions of people within the country leading to fatal consequences. With over 2.6 lakh death cases in India due to hypertension, this condition has become the most prevalent chronic disease in the country. The condition occurs when the blood travels through the vessels with too much force, causing damage to the artery and walls of the blood vessels. Hypertension act as a silent killer as the condition shows minimal symptoms and quietly damages the entire body. In worst cases, the condition can also cause cardiovascular ailments and cause disability. Onlymyhealth started a campaign 'Focus of the Month', in which we will be focusing on different categories every month. This month' s focus is 'Healthy Living' and this article will talk about one of the most common health conditions, hypertension or high blood pressure. We spoke to Dr. Deepak Katyal, Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Manipal Hospitals, Patiala, to know about the effect of hypertension on organs.
How can hypertension affect organs?
For an average adult, a healthy blood pressure rate is below 120/80 mmHg. However, due to the change in lifestyle and food habits, the blood pressure tends to fluctuate and if this condition persists, it can damage multiple organs which includes:
1. Artery Damage
With increased blood pressure inside the artery, there is a high chance of damage to the cells and inner linings. Usually, when fat gets accumulated inside the arteries, the inner walls become less elastic, limiting blood flow throughout the body. Apart from that, with the constant pressure of the blood in the weakened artery, there is a risk of aneurysm, a condition in which the walls get enlarged and form a bulge. This condition can form in any artery, but they're most common in the body's largest artery (aorta).
2. Heart Damage
Hypertension has a direct effect on heart and can lead to conditions like coronary artery disease, enlargement and even heart failure. It increases the workload on the heart inducing structural and functional changes and can even become fatal if not intervened on time. With decreased blood flow, oxygen is also unable to reach the heart and can even cause chest pain, also called angina. Moreover, hypertension also thickens the left ventricle of the heart increasing the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
3. Eye Damage
High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the retina and can even cause fluid buildup. In certain cases, hypertension can even damage the optic nerve, leading to bleeding within the eye or vision loss.
4. Brain Damage
As the brain depends on the nourishment provided by proper blood flow, hypertension can affect its functioning and increases the risk of strokes. If the brain is unable to get proper oxygen, the blood vessels can get narrow or leak. As a result, the brain cells start dying due to blood clots. Hypertension also increases the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment that can affect the memory or understanding process.
5. Kidney Damage
The kidneys are responsible for filtering excess fluid and waste from the blood. The process requires health blood vessels. Hypertension not only damages these blood vessels but also impacts the kidneys and can even lead to conditions like kidney scarring or failure.
6. Sexual dysfunction
Hypertension can even lead to erectile dysfunction in men due to blockage of proper blood flow. Even in women, high blood pressure can affect sexual desires and can affect their overall health.
Tips to control hypertension
Here are some preventive tips to control hypertension:
1. Reducing Weight
One of the best ways to lower blood pressure is by shedding some weight. If you're overweight or obese, even losing a small amount of weight can help lower your blood pressure. With each kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of weight lost, your blood pressure should drop by about 1 millimetre of mercury (mm Hg).
2. Regular Exercise
Exercising can help you avoid developing hypertension if your blood pressure is high. Regular physical activity can help you lower your blood pressure if you already have hypertension. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing are all examples of aerobic exercise that can help lower blood pressure.
3. Eat Healthy
If you have high blood pressure, eating a healthy diet can reduce it by up to 11 mm Hg. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a good source of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy. These foods are high in important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, calcium, fibre, and protein.
4. Avoid bad habits
Both alcohol and smoking can raise blood pressure. For many minutes after you finish smoking a cigarette, your blood pressure rises. When you stop smoking, your blood pressure returns to normal and when you quit smoking it will lower your risk of heart disease and improves your overall health.
5. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure. Your body produces a surge of hormones whenever you are in a stressful situation, These hormones cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow, temporarily raising your blood pressure. Stress can cause high blood pressure if you respond to it by eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol, or smoking.
6. Monitor your blood pressure
Make it a habit to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis, either from a clinic or at home. Because high blood pressure frequently occurs without symptoms, only blood pressure readings can tell you if your blood pressure is rising. If your blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg, it is recommended that you check it at least once every two years beginning at the age of 20. If your blood pressure is high, you may need to have it checked more frequently.