1 out of every 8 Indian has high blood pressure
Roughly one of every eight Indians suffer from high blood pressure (BP), a 2017 health ministry screening has revealed, an alarming rise from the one in 11 that was found in the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey. But what's more worrisome is that most of the 2.25cr adults screened reside in rural areas; till now, such health conditions were largely an urban problem.
5 crore people to be covered in the screening program
The first phase of the preventive program, started earlier this year, studied trends in 100 districts, mostly primary health centers. It screened the population for common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension/chronic high BP, diabetes and various cancers in people over 30. The action plan for NCD prevention aims to reduce hypertension and death from heart disease by 25%, and lower salt/sodium intake by 30%.
Several factors add to the enormity of the problem
The findings are alarming by themselves, but there're other factors. Apart from the fact that most of them reside in rural India, many weren't even aware of their condition, and so "risked developing long-term health complications," a ministry official said. Moreover, the health ministry has lower standards for categorizing 'high BP': whereas globally, anything above 130/90 mmHg is flagged, the ministry recognizes only those above 140.
Situation in urban India as bad as developed countries
Talking about the urban scenario, Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Delhi, says a smaller screening by the Cardiological Society of India had found one in four people suffering from hypertension. It is comparable to figures in developed countries: according to the WHO, one in three people in the US and one in four in the UK suffer similarly.
What's the use of screening without treatment?
"Screening without treatment serves no purpose," summarized Professor D Prabhakaran, Public Health Foundation of India. For that, the Indian Council of Medical Research is leading the India Hypertension Management Initiative, under which a standard drug protocol has been created. They are now planning disbursing medicines in areas where screening has been done. Punjab, Kerala and MP have been covered. Telangana and Maharashtra are next.
Prevention is better than cure
The key to preventing hypertension is good food and regular exercise. Maintain a healthy weight. For a balanced diet, eat ample quantity of fruit and vegetables every day, especially those rich in potassium. Cut back on salt by avoiding processed foods. Regulate your alcohol intake. Ensure you get regular exercise. Moderate physical activity for 30 minutes is recommended thrice a week.