One in four adults in India has high BP, yet no one knows when it strikes

New Delhi, Aug 5 : With no noticeable symptoms, making it hard to detect until complications arise, blood pressure (BP) is a silent killer increasingly affecting Indians, both young and old, said doctors here.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that at least one in four adults in India has hypertension, but only about 12 per cent of them have their blood pressure under control.

In June, the ICMR–India Diabetes (ICMR-INDIAB) study showed  that a whopping 315 million people in India suffer from hypertension.

The study, based on a survey of 1,13,043 people, found that high blood pressure was highly prevalent in urban areas and across the country. 

“We often say BP is a silent killer and the main reason behind it is that people are unaware of the problem that they will face because of BP and in fact, it is not wrong to say that they are not aware that they have high blood pressure,” Dr Sanjeev Gera – Director, Cardiology, Fortis Hospital Noida, told IANS.

People may not experience any symptoms, or sometimes it can be mild and easily overlooked. As a result, people may not take the necessary steps to manage their blood pressure and prevent complications. 

Uncontrolled blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as heart attacks and stroke, and are responsible for one-third of total deaths in India.

“High BP is a silent killer as it often exhibits no noticeable symptoms, making it hard to detect until complications arise. Its gradual progression silently damages arteries and organs, elevating the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems,” Dr. Dixit Garg, Consultant, Interventional Cardiologist, Manipal Hospitals Gurugram, told IANS.

“If left untreated, the increased blood pressure leads to the thickening of heart muscles and over time heart becomes dilated, and its efficiency and functioning go down leading to heart failure,” Dr. Garg said

While high intake of salt is often blamed for causing hypertension, the doctors said alcohol, tobacco, increased consumption of fast and packaged food, which have hidden salt in them, is also exacerbating the burden of hypertension.  

“High salt intake is one of the significant factors contributing to hypertension, but it is not the sole cause. Salt contains sodium, and excessive sodium intake can lead to water retention, increasing blood volume and putting extra pressure on blood vessel walls, raising blood pressure,” Dr. Garg said. 

Other factors like genetics, obesity, lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption, and stress also play crucial roles in developing hypertension. 

Obesity rates have also risen, contributing to hypertension risk. Furthermore, limited access to healthcare and lack of awareness about blood pressure management in some regions exacerbate the issue. Addressing these factors through lifestyle modifications, better healthcare access, and awareness campaigns is crucial to combat hypertension in India.

Meanwhile, India has set a target of 25 per cent relative reduction in the prevalence of high blood pressure by 2025. To achieve this, the government launched the India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI) in November 2017. IHCI is being implemented in 138 districts of 23 states. More than 34 lakh people with hypertension are taking treatment in government health facilities. 

To effectively manage hypertension, it is essential to address multiple aspects, including reducing salt intake, adopting a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, regular check ups and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the doctors advised.