The Silent Threat: Rising Trend of Hypertension in Young Population

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By Dr. Suhas Hardas, Director of Cardiology, Sahyadri Hospitals Pune

Pune, 17 May 2023: As we observe the World Hypertension Day, it is crucial to draw attention to the rising trend of hypertension among younger people. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that one in four persons globally suffer with hypertension, and that number is expected to increase over the next few years.
The theme for World Hypertension Day 2023 is “Know Your Numbers”, which emphasizes the importance of regularly checking blood pressure levels and understanding what the numbers mean. By knowing your numbers and taking steps to keep blood pressure within a healthy range, you can reduce your risk of developing hypertension and its associated health problems.

Hypertension is a condition in which the force of blood against the walls of arteries is too high, which can damage the blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
Hypertension, once considered a condition prevalent among older individuals, is now becoming increasingly common in the younger population. Recently, a concerning trend has emerged where individuals in the age group of 30-40 years are being diagnosed with high blood pressure. This shift in demographics highlights the urgent need for awareness and proactive measures to combat hypertension among the young.

Causes of Hypertension:
• High Stress Levels:
In a rapidly developing country like India, the younger generation is at the forefront of the competitive work environment. With long working hours becoming the norm, stress levels have skyrocketed. This high-stress lifestyle, coupled with poor self-care practices and unhealthy food habits, has paved the way for a rise in hypertension cases.

• Sedentary Lifestyle:
The younger generation is progressively adopting sedentary lifestyles, spending extended periods engrossed in screens and adopting habits like smoking and excessive caffeine consumption. Insufficient physical activity not only leads to weight gain but also has adverse effects on cardiovascular health. These detrimental lifestyle choices significantly contribute to elevated blood pressure and further increase the susceptibility to heart-related conditions.

• Unhealthy Habits:
Unhealthy eating patterns, characterized by the consumption of excessive processed foods, high salt intake, and sugary beverages, pose a significant risk for hypertension. These dietary habits play important role in elevating blood pressure levels.

Consequences of Untreated Hypertension:
It is crucial to address hypertension at its early stages to prevent long-term complications and ensure a healthy future. Undetected and poorly managed hypertension poses severe risks to multiple organs, including the eyes, brain, heart, and kidneys. Once organ damage occurs, reversing it becomes an arduous task.

• Hypertension has significant effects on the cardiovascular system, including an increased risk of heart disease. Elevated blood pressure can damage the arteries, making them less flexible and more prone to blockages. As a result, conditions like heart attacks, coronary artery disease, and heart failure can develop.
• Another critical effect of hypertension is the heightened risk of stroke. High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the brain, increasing the likelihood of blood clots and bleeding. This can lead to a stroke, which can have long-term destructive effects on a person’s physical and mental capabilities.
• Additionally, high blood pressure can cause renal failure. The delicate filtering system in the kidneys can be impaired by the persistent high pressure within the blood vessels. Over time, this damage may result in renal failure, necessitating treatments such as dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Prevention Strategies for Hypertension in Younger Individuals:
Fortunately, there are various preventive measures that younger individuals can take to reduce the likelihood of developing hypertension.
• Adopting a nutritious diet is crucial. Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can significantly decrease the risk of hypertension. It is also important to limit the intake of salt, processed meals, and sugary drinks, as they can contribute to high blood pressure.
• Mindful Eating – “Aanna he Purnabrahma” – this adage holds true when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. Mindful eating entails using all our senses to savour and enjoy each meal, making conscious and nutritious food choices.
• Regular physical exercise plays a vital role in hypertension prevention. Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, can significantly lower the risk of developing hypertension.
• Managing stress is a key aspect of avoiding hypertension. Implementing stress-reducing practices such as deep breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, and other relaxation methods can effectively lower blood pressure. Finding constructive outlets to relieve stress, such as engaging in hobbies or spending quality time with loved ones, can greatly contribute to overall well-being and hypertension prevention.

Importance of Regular Check-ups and Effective Management:
Regular check-ups play a vital role in the early detection and effective management of hypertension. Through routine examinations, including blood pressure monitoring, potential signs of hypertension can be identified, allowing for timely intervention. Individuals with a family history of hypertension or heart diseases should be especially attentive to their health and prioritize regular check-ups. By focusing on prevention and effective management, early detection becomes instrumental in safeguarding heart health and reducing the impact of hypertension.

Treatment and Management: The Rule of Half
While prevention is vital, it is important to address the treatment and management of hypertension. Unfortunately, statistics reveal a concerning reality known as the “rule of half.” This rule suggests that about 46% of the individuals with hypertension are unaware about their condition. Out of these people only 42% of patients are diagnosed but receive treatment very late for hypertension. And among those receiving treatment, only 21% achieve and maintain their blood pressure within the ideal range consistently (120/80 mmHg).

The escalating cases of hypertension among the young population serve as a wake-up call for better health practices. By addressing the root causes, adopting healthier lifestyles, and seeking regular check-ups, we can reverse this alarming trend. Let us strive to create a generation that is not only ambitious but also prioritizes their health and well-being, ensuring a healthier and brighter future for all.