High blood pressure exerts a substantial burden for cardiovascular health. High blood pressure is directly associated with cardiovascular diseases like stroke, ischaemic heart disease, acute myocardial infarction, peripheral vascular disease and coronary heart disease. Hypertension is rated as the most common cause for premature death by the World Health Organization. In the year 1990, there were about 2.3 million deaths in India due to cardiovascular diseases, with one quarter of the population aged less than 70 years. In the past 3 decades, the prevalence of hypertension has increased from 5% to 20-40% in urban population and 12-17% in rural population.
A general survey on the global burden of hypertension in the year 2005 revealed that about 20.5% men and 20.9% women suffer from hypertension. Hypertension is more prevalent among lower and middle class groups and in urban populations, when compared to rural populations in India. This could be explained by the socio-economic conditions and the quality of healthcare provided. Lifestyle changes, higher intake of salt in food, sedentary habits are the major risk factors contributing to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Other lifestyle habits such as smoking, tobacco and alcohol consumption have shown a twofold increase in the risk for hypertension.
Systolic blood pressure ≥ 130 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure ≥ 90 mm Hg are the widely accepted blood pressure levels associated increased cardiovascular risk. An Indian epidemiological study suggests that 70% of adults suffer from Stage I hypertension. Stage I hypertension carries a significant risk that suggests to manage BP through meditation and relaxation techniques. Stage 2 and stage 3 require antihypertensive medications.
The Indian healthcare system cannot accommodate a resource-intensive model of healthcare to address hypertension. Therefore, it is necessary to prioritize population-based approaches to deal with hypertension. At the individual level, one should have a healthy active lifestyle and a calm mind in unison to combat the daily stress and other demands of lifestyle. Also, utilizing power policies like reducing salt and sugar intake, reducing consumption of fat and alcohol, creating activity promoting environments will have a significant impact on Indian population.
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Bansal SK, Saxena V, Kandpal SD, Gray WK, Walker, RW and Goel D, (2012), ‘The prevalence of hypertension and hypertension risk factors in a rural Indian community: A prospective door-to-door study’, Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, 3(2): 117
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