This World Health Day, while the world talks about diabetes, we take up another non-communicable disease – hypertension, the silent killer.
GoBarefoot: That throbbing headache lasted for 40 minutes in the morning only to come back again after lunch. In the evening it started again, but this time accompanied by panting. The heartbeat had increased, and then…it stopped.
This isn’t a one-off case of death caused by headache but amongst the many caused by hypertension, a common condition wherein the pressure of the blood pumped by the heart increases.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called the silent killer owing to its generic symptoms: headache, dizziness, increased heartbeat, and blurred vision among others.
A lifestyle disease, traditionally associated with the older age group, hypertension is becoming a cause of worry among youngsters. In 2005, non-communicable diseases (NCD) like hypertension and diabetes accounted for 53% of all the deaths in the age group of 30-59 years in India.
“It is a misconception that NCDs are associated with older age groups. Evidence shows that more than 9 million of all deaths attributed to NCDs occur before the age of 60,” says Komal Khanna, Abt Associates.
While the increasing trend of obesity in urban areas foreshadows a huge increase in obesity-related NCDs like hypertension and diabetes, a recent survey in Kerala reported one of the highest diabetes prevalence rates (14.6%) so far, in a rural setting.
“It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and approximately 25-30% adult population in India suffers from hypertension,” says Dr Ritu Rana, PSI.
With India expected to have over 213 million people suffering of hypertension by 2025, it is a worrying scenario not just because of the increasing number of cases but for the economic burden it causes.
“Seventy five percent of the treatment cost is out of pocket expenses, life-long, and affects the productive years of a person’s life,” says Komal Khanna.
While hypertension is not reversible, the good news is that it is manageable. An effect of unhealthy lifestyle choices, a balanced diet with high fiber whole grains, low salt intake and regular physical activity can keep the blood pressure levels under control.
“Exercising for half an hour every day is a must to keep hypertension at bay. Patients should also refrain from smoking and consuming alcohol,” says Komal Khanna.
In India, a limited number of NGOs are working with the government public health system to expand the access to care and services by educating people about the disease. They help ensure early detection and increase the demand for better treatment services from the public health facilities.
NGOs working for the cause: