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Hypertension: A Silent Killer


 Can you think of a time more stressful than the pandemic? For most of the people, this pandemic is the most stressful time of our lives, the stress resulting from the grief of losing a loved one, stress caused by the fear of losing a near one, stress from trying to stay safe. And, of course, the stress from adjusting to the constantly adjusting to the ‘New Normal’ i.e. masks, tests, vaccines, lockdowns, work from home, online learning.

High stress levels can be fatal. And the way this story is going, it is not helping you reducing the stress. But stay tuned. It's important to know what's happening. Stress can lead to high blood pressure. Also, what's known as hypertension and prolonged hypertension can lead to severe medical conditions. So, while we have finally started addressing mental health problems resulting from anxiety and stress, it's also time to acknowledge and spread awareness about hypertension itself. 

World Hypertension Day

But why are we discussing about all this here today?

Because today's World Hypertension Day (17th May) and it makes for the perfect opportunity to address a silent killer. What is hypertension? It has been the force of your blood. The blood pressure against your artery walls becomes high enough for it to result in health problems. What kind of health problems are we talking about? Uncontrolled hypertension can result in heart attack and stroke. It can also narrow the blood vessels in your kidney, preventing them from functioning normally. Hypertension can also lead to thickening or narrowing of blood vessels in the eyes, resulting in the loss of vision.

It can affect your memory causing dementia. Around one point three billion people worldwide, one point three billion have hypertension.

Symptoms of Hypertension

How will we know if we have it too? What are the symptoms of hypertension? The Mayo Clinic says most people with high blood pressure do not show symptoms that even when their blood pressure reaches dangerous levels. Some people, however, have headaches. They have shortness of breath or nose bleeding. Next question, what causes hypertension?

Types of Hypertension

So, there are two types of hypertension and each one has its own causes. The first one is called primary hypertension. It develops over time. It has no specific causes. Most people who have hypertension fall under the primary category. It is sometimes linked to genes. Your lifestyle choices, poor diet or physical changes like obesity or aging. The second one is the secondary type, secondary hypertension. It can be caused by sleep apnoea, problems with thyroid or kidney disease, alcohol abuse, side effects of medication, sometimes also because of drug abuse.

 

The secondary type, the secondary hypertension is more severe than the primary one. The World Health Organization says hypertension is a major cause of premature deaths worldwide. The good news is hypertension can be treated. It can be managed by reducing stress levels, making little changes in your diet, and by regularly checking blood pressure and consulting doctors. You can reduce the risk of hypertension by making small changes like adhering to what is called a DASH diet. Dash stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. DASH like consuming whole grains, fresh vegetables, low fat dietary products, reducing your alcohol intake, exercising regularly, monitoring your body weight, reducing your stress levels.

 

Now, it is quite evident that pandemic is stressful, but hypertension can result in COVID complications and we all know that. So why we come to terms with prolonged online learning, long hours of work from home, additional caregiving responsibilities. It is important that we keep our stress levels in check, do things at home that make you happy, take time out, cook your favourite meal, read a book. But if you don't spend time in these things, you cannot change.

 

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