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Hypertension (high BP) is a silent killer for South Asians and the strongest risk factor for stroke!


What is BP?

Blood pressure is the force exerted as the blood pumps through the arteries from the heart and the resistance to the flow of the blood. BP is standardized as the following: systolic BP/diastolic BP. Systolic BP is the maximum pressure exerted against the artery when the heart contracts and fills the artery with blood. Diastolic BP measures when the heart relaxes and is the blood pressure between heart beats.

Basics of Hypertension (high BP):

Hypertension (high BP) is the medical term for high blood pressure. The optimal BP is less than 120/80 while high BP is 140/90 or greater. Anything in between is “pre-hypertension”.

Hypertension is associated with aging and the lifetime risk for high BP is greater than 90%! In fact, systolic blood pressure increases on average by 16 points systolic from age 25 to 55. The risk for heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 point increase in systolic pressure.

South Asians are at similar risk for hypertension to other ethnic groups with 30% of adult South Asians having high BP. However, high BP markedly increases risk factors when coupled with other risk factors which South Asians are at highest risk for!

What can you do about high BP?

You can take major control of your health with a few simple lifestyle measures. Systolic blood pressure can be lowered by as much as 30 points by lifestyle changes. A diet high in fruits and vegetables (at least 5 servings daily) and lower in sodium (avoid added salt as well as processed foods such as chips). Weight loss in particular has a major effect on BP and moderate physical activity for 30 minutes at least 5 days weekly is important. Avoiding excess alcohol (greater than two drinks per day) can decrease risk for high BP.

There are effective medications available for high BP if lifestyle modifications are not enough. These include beta blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitors. You can learn more about these medications by clicking on the links below and by talking to your physician.

Further Reading

American Heart Association High BP risk calculator: http://www.heart.org/beatyourrisk/en_US/hbpRiskCalc.html

CADI Research Foundation Hypertension: http://www.cadiresearch.org/topic/hypertension/hypertension-india

Mayo Clinic choosing BP medications: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-medication/art-20046280

UK basics blood pressure resources: http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/BloodPressureandyou/Thebasics