Hypertension is defined as high blood pressure in the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The blood pressure is usually determined by the heart's capacity to pump blood and the health of the blood vessels. According to the medical guidelines followed across the world, if the blood pressure in the arteries exceeds 130/80 mmHg, the condition is referred as hypertension.
While high blood pressure has become increasingly common, there are a number of myths prevailing about the condition. Let us look at a few of these –
Myth 1 – Hypertension is common and not cause for much concern
Fact – While it is true that modern lifestyle has made hypertension increasingly common, it is best to remember that high blood pressure is a condition that needs immediate attention. If left unchecked, high blood pressure can damage vital organs including the kidney, heart, blood vessels and can even lead to a sudden heart attack or a stroke. The biggest challenge that hypertension poses is that it is often unaccompanied by symptoms. This is the reason hypertension is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’.
Myth 2 - It is not possible to prevent hypertension
Fact - It is true that there is no cure for hypertension yet but this does not make it a condition that cannot be prevented or managed. In fact, doctors across the world are aiming at prevention of hypertension by spreading awareness. Here are commonly accepted recommendations for those who are at risk of developing high blood pressure –
• Maintain a healthy weight and live an active lifestyle.
• Hypertension can be kept at bay by exercising regularly (30 min/day, 5 days a week) and leading a stress-free life.
• A healthy diet which is high in nutrients and low in salt and saturated fats keeps high blood pressure away.
• Quit smoking and avoid alcohol intake.
Myth 3 - Hypertension affects men, women are rarely affected
Fact - Given the stress levels and the sedentary lifestyle of men and women these days, both genders are equally prone to developing hypertension. Post-menopause, women are more at risk of high blood pressure and cardiac Problem.
Myth 4 – Hypertension is a geriatric problem
Fact - Hypertension is often mistakenly considered to be a geriatric problem or a health concern for the elderly. More and more research findings are now establishing that hypertension can occur to any individual at any time. Young adults living a sedentary life and indulging in unhealthy lifestyles are at a high risk of developing high blood pressure.
Myth 5 – Hypertension is inherited
It is often believed that ‘hypertension runs in the family’. While the genetic propensity to develop hypertension is not in our hands, much can be done to prevent, delay, and even manage the condition. Leading a healthy lifestyle is of prime importance. A low salt diet, fruits, vegetables, regular exercise and stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation go a long way in prevention and management of hypertension despite the genetics.
Myth 6 –Hypertension medicines can be stopped if the blood pressure is normal
Doctors usually monitor a patient for a considerable time before rendering a diagnosis of hypertension. They also take the patient’s lifestyle and medical history into account. Once the patient is started on the medicines, the blood pressure usually stabilises and comes back to normal. It would be a mistake to stop medicines at this time. While the effect of medicines may last over weeks, hypertension again crops up. Since its symptoms are silent, it can damage vital organs like heart, brain and kidney. Skipping medicines can lead to irreversible organ damage.
Myth 7 –Wine is good for health; it keeps hypertension at bay
Fact – Earlier people used to consume red wine in small quantities to maintain cardiac health. Recent studies, however, reveal that alcohol in any form has no beneficial value and is best avoided.