On May 17th we observe World Hypertension Day. This day was created in 2006 by the World Hypertension League (an umbrella organization consisting of multiple national hypertension societies and organizations). The motivation for founding it was to raise global awareness of the dangers of hypertension (also known as high blood pressure or HBP) and to educate the general populace about ways to prevent, detect it and successfully treat it.
According to WHO (The World Health Organization) approximately one in three adults suffer from hypertension. The proportion of people experiencing hypertension increases as you get older, from 1 in 10 suffering from high blood pressure in the 20-39 age group to 1 out of every 2 once you reach the 50-59 age group. The results of hypertension can be alarming, resulting in increased heart attack risk, stroke and kidney failure and if left untreated, can lead to blindness, cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure.
In order to shed light on different aspects of hypertension, the World Hypertension League changes its motto each year. This year it is “Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer”. Why such a big fuss? The answer is simple; around 10 million deaths worldwide are attributable to hypertension every year. Hypertension is therefore one of the biggest risk factors for mortality. But hypertension is often avoidable and once diagnosed, also treatable!
Hypertension risk can often be reduced through:
• Reducing salt consumption and observing a balanced diet
• Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
• Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
Monitoring of your own blood pressure is also one way to gain some control of your situtation. Regular home monitoring and maintaining proper documentation can help identify and reduce the risks in individual lifestyles - and thus get hypertension and the potential consequences of it under control. See your doctor if you suspect you have hypertension to discuss ways to successfully manage it.
Some people may also experience therapy resistant hypertension (increased hypertension that doesn’t normalize with lifestyle changes and/or drug treatment), a possible solution could be a minimally invasive medical procedure called renal denervation (RDN). The procedure uses a balloon catheter inserted into the renal artery to burn the nerves on the renal wall at certain locations. This process causes a reduction in nerve activity, which in turn, reduces blood pressure.
An interim analysis of study results from 2013 suggest that this minimally invasive approach could be a viable therapeutic alternative for patients with resistant hypertension. Current studies confirm this however, the therapy is still looked at as controversial by some.
Whether you have normal hypertension or resistant hypertension it is important not to let your hypertension go untreated or undetected. Especially if you are older, have your blood pressure checked regularly even if you feel healthy. Many with hypertension are not even aware they have it until they have a cardiac event which can result in disability or even death. The best course of action is to see your doctor and determine if you have hypertension, and if you do, to have your doctor find the best way to monitor and treat it successfully. High blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can be managed through lifestyle changes, medication and in some cases surgery.
A special note of caution to parents who smoke: Children exposed to cigarette smoke have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure as a result even as early as preschool. The best way to prevent your children from developing high blood pressure is to avoid smoking in their presence.
Illustrations : Balloon-based denervation technology with an array of radiofrequency electrodes arranged in a precise pattern designed to deliver a modest dose of energy to disrupt the renal nerves that surround the renal artery.