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Persistent headache? Check your blood pressure
Sherin Mammen
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July 12, 2007
Sanjeev Solanki, an accounts executive with an advertising agency, woke up one morning with a throbbing headache. Late night partying and alcohol often left him with a nagging headache the morning after. So, as usual, he popped in a painkiller and thought no more of it.


But this time the headache persisted. He couldn't concentrate on his work and felt irritable. At his friends' insistence he decided to consult a doctor. To his shock he was told that he had high blood pressure. How could this happen? After all, he was only 28 years old!


Apart from the medication that he needed to take everyday, Sanjeev was also advised to take control of his lifestyle. This meant fewer late night parties, no smoking, giving up junk food, adequate rest, regular exercise and going easy on his work schedules -- easier said than done, considering he works in the fast-paced world of advertising.

However, faced with the possibility of suffering a stroke or a heart attack, Sanjeev's only option was to take the warning seriously.


Sanjeev's is no longer a stray case of a young person suffering from blood pressure. Hypertension is no longer limited to the old and the middle-aged. There is a growing number of people in their twenties and early thirties who are either already undergoing treatment or are living with hypertension without being aware of it.


Over 980 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure. The number is predicted to increase by about 60 per cent by the year 2025. But most of us are either too busy or unconcerned about watching out for early warning signs. Here's what you need to know about this silent disease.


What is high blood pressure or hypertension?

High blood pressure or hypertension is a constant increase in the force that the blood exerts upon the walls of the arteries. This force increases with stress or physical exertion and comes back to normal when the body is at rest. However, in the case of hypertension, the patient's blood pressure remains high even at rest.

Hypertension can be either primary (essential) or secondary. When there is no specific cause for a person's high blood pressure it is called primary or essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is the result of another ailment such as a kidney disease or tumors. Approximately, only 5-10 per cent of all cases are secondary.

Uncontrolled hypertension can make you vulnerable to life-threatening strokes, heart attacks and arterial aneurysms (localised, blood-filled dilation or bulging of a blood vessel caused by disease or weakening of the vessel wall).


Speaking about the dangers of hypertension, Dr Pradnya Nagle, a general physician, says, "A sudden blood pressure fluctuation can put pressure on the heart and cause a heart failure. It can even cause a brain haemorrage. Our kidneys cannot sustain high blood pressure for long and can result in a renal failure. Retinal changes or haemorrage in the eye could occur resulting in sudden blindness. High blood pressure could also cause paralytic attacks due to a clot or haemorrage in the blood vessels of the brain."


According to Dr Nagle, blood pressure can fluctuate according to the age, sex and race of a person and also with pregnancy. For an adult below the age of 40, a systolic reading of 120 and diastolic reading of 80 is considered normal. A reading of 140/90 and above is considered high. 


What are the symptoms and causes?


Most people who have hypertension don't realise it because the disorder doesn't have any fixed, obvious symptoms, which could prove quite dangerous. So the best thing to do is get your blood pressure checked at regular intervals.


"Regular blood pressure check-ups are a must for those who have a family history of hypertension," advises Dr Nagle. "One should also screen for lipid levels, blood sugar and opt for a renal profile at least once a year."


There are, however, some signs that indicate that you might be suffering from acute hypertension. If you exhibit one or more of the following symptoms, you should get your blood pressure checked immediately.

Hypertension and urban youth


There is an alarming increase in the occurrence of hypertension among the urban youth. Apart from heredity, the other culprit is the unruly and sedentary lifestyle of the youth.  


Unlike in the past, most young people today climb the social ladder quite fast. They hold positions of responsibility, which puts great pressure on them to perform at their best at all times.


There is no time to maintain a healthy diet, take up constructive physical activity or relax. The fast food or the preserved food culture, irregular meals, late night partying, binge drinking, heavy smoking, lack of sleep and almost no proper physical exercise are instrumental in causing high blood pressure.

How do you treat hypertension?


Acute hypertension needs immediate and expert medical attention; there are no over-the-counter drugs to treat it. But for those who are facing the threat of developing hypertension, here are a few lifestyle changes you could make:

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