Healing Your Heart: Control the Blood Pressure
Few other risk factors pose as much risk to the heart as does high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also infamous for killing silently. Most of the times there are no telltale signs till a catastrophic event happens. It is a major cause of stroke, heart attack and heart failure. More importantly, it is a preventable risk factor. Globally a lot many lives can be saved and hospitalizations prevented, if we learn to control our blood pressure, and that starts with understanding the causes of blood pressure.
Is blood pressure all bad?
Blood pressure is an essence. It provides the impetus for propelling blood to the body by the contraction of heart. But then it is bad, when it is excessive. The physiological limits make blood pressure of less than 120/80 mmHg as ideal for the body to work with. But due to the many causes of blood pressure, when it is high, it targets eyes, heart, brain, kidney and lower limb vessels and causes gradually progressive damage. Long standing uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause stroke, heart attack and heart failure. Most of the patients with Hypertension are without any symptoms, and the first symptom might be a potentially deadly complication such as stroke. Thus the term ‘Silent Killer’ has been aptly coined for this disease.
When is Hypertension present?
Recently, American College of Cardiology (ACC) has published their newest guidelines on Hypertension. These were developed by 21 experts who analyzed 900 scientific papers. They are comprehensive, and are based on available clinical evidence of randomized control trials.
Whereas previously high blood pressure was defined as reading of more than 140/90 mm Hg, these new guidelines now define high blood pressure with a systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥ 130 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥ 80 mm Hg. The implications are immense. Hitherto, many of us who used to consider that they were normotensive, may now consider themselves to be actually hypertensive. However, most of them would require us to modify our lifestyle, and change our dietary regimens only. At the same time some of these new Hypertensives would need to take daily medications as well.
Why blood pressure needs to be controlled?
No matter what the exact causes of blood pressure, the perils of persisting high blood pressure are too many. Roughly, half of the people with untreated Hypertension die of heart attack, and another third die of stroke. Those with uncontrolled blood pressure are twice as likely to get heart attacks, and eight times as likely to get strokes compared to the normal population, especially if they are over fifty-five of age. High blood pressure increases the risk of kidney failure, impaired vision and cognitive decline. For every increase of 10 mm mercury blood pressure, the risk of poor cognitive function is increased by 9 percent.
Treating high blood pressure
It is seen that the effective treatment can heal the heart and normalized blood pressure can reverse the harmful impact of once high blood pressure. Taking medications regularly is the core of therapy for Hypertension. The commonest cause of resistant Hypertension is drug non-compliance. Regular exercise, less salt intake, eating food that is traditional Indian *satvik khanna*, shunning smoking along with alcohol, and being at peace can help alleviate the causes of blood pressure, and help in controlling it.
Dr Arun Kochar
Senior Interventional Cardiologist
Fortis Hospital, Mohali