Silent Pressure: Unveiling the Hidden Dangers of Hypertension

3/28/20242 min read

“He is just 20 years old, and you are telling me he has high blood pressure?” Amit’s mother asked me accusingly, as if I were responsible for it. “He just has headaches.” Amit was in his second year at engineering college.

“He has never had blood pressure; how is it even possible?” Pranali looked at her 35-year-old husband, who was admitted for deviated nasal septum surgery. “He has never taken a pill in his life,” she declared firmly.

“He gets dizzy when he gets up in the morning,” Mrs. Sharma complained about her retired husband. “Could high blood pressure be a reason?” I tried coaxing her into taking her blood pressure medications and explaining the problems associated with high blood pressure and its effects on the heart, brain, and kidneys. Nope, that didn’t work either.

“My head is always heavy as if I am carrying a 10 kg weight inside, but I do not have a headache, you know what I mean?”

I hear such complaints very often in clinical practice. I see many patients who are sent to me for evaluation of dizziness. It’s a vague term used interchangeably for lightheadedness, losing balance, things rotating around, giddiness, vertigo, etc. Remember, one of the causes could be high blood pressure.

Is high blood pressure so common, and still it goes unnoticed?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that almost half of the world’s population with hypertension isn’t aware they have the condition and have no idea they are living with a “silent killer.” Mostly, people cannot “feel” high blood pressure and are relatively asymptomatic, meaning it usually doesn’t cause many symptoms. This is why it is often called the silent killer.

Age is no bar. A cross-sectional study done in India showed an alarming prevalence of high BP in Indian youth: 35% of 10- to 12-year-olds and 25% of 13- to 19-year-olds had high blood pressure. This study also showed youth with high BP were more likely to be associated with obesity, high blood glucose levels, lipid abnormalities, and deranged lifestyle. Unfortunately, a large number of youngsters with high blood pressure go undiagnosed, as it is least suspected.

Did you know that the average blood pressure of a newborn is 60/40 mmHg? As one ages, this figure keeps rising. At 60 or beyond, the average blood pressure is 140/90. For the past couple of decades, there has been a consensus that having a blood pressure of more than 140/90 qualifies as hypertension and requires treatment.

How do you know you have high blood pressure that needs treatment? This is a critical question, as about 22% of undiagnosed or untreated people can present with a brain hemorrhage. Are you aware of it? Hypertension (High blood pressure) is the most common cause of brain hemorrhage or brain stroke after injury.

So, how do you know if you have hypertension and need medication? One high reading does not make you hypertensive. If multiple recordings show the blood pressure exceeds 140/90, you most likely need treatment. There is no cure for high blood pressure. However, treatment can lower blood pressure, which is too high. If it is mild, high blood pressure may sometimes be brought under control by making changes to a healthier lifestyle.

Lifestyle changes include:

1. A healthy diet, with less intake of salt and fat.

2. Regular Exercise

3. Weight: Maintain a healthy weight

4. Sleep: Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.

5. Alcohol: Avoid or limit alcohol

6. Smoking: Quit smoking.

7. Caffeine: Drink less caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, and cola