LAHORE - Despite high prevalence, hypertension is a disease not taken seriously either by the patients or the government.

Though there is no reliable data due to lack of proper study, healthcare providers believe that prevalence of hypertension in adults is 19 per cent with every third person over the age of 40 becoming increasingly vulnerable to a wide range of diseases.

People with hypertension are increasing at alarming rate due to unhealthy eating habits, sedentary lifestyle and lack of regular screening. The situation is likely to worsen in coming years due to lack of public awareness and improper healthcare facilities in the public sector.

“Due to lack of any proper survey, no authentic data is available regarding prevalence of hypertension in the country. Smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, obesity, physical inactivity, consumption of alcohol and intake of sodium rich meals are major causes of hypertension”, said Dr Amer Bandesha, senior cardiologist working at Punjab Institute of Cardiology.

“There is need of adopting healthy lifestyle, avoiding drug abuse, taking freshly cooked food, adequate use of cereals, nuts, fruits, vegetables and regular exercise. “People having family history of mature heart disease should take extra care besides regular screening.”

He added the people should develop the habit of regular screening that helps early diagnosis and start of proper management of hypertension. “Controlling fast growing hypertension prevalence is the responsibility of both the individuals and the government.

“People should take precautionary measures and make periodic screening a habit. Government should launch massive public awareness campaign regarding preventive measures as hypertension has already reached epidemic proportions.

“Hypertension is major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), leading non communicable disease in the country. Besides CVDs, hypertension can affect vision, lead to renal failure and brain hemorrhage”, Dr Bandesha told The Nation.

Dietary and lifestyle changes can improve blood pressure control and decrease the risk of health complications, although treatment with medication is still often necessary in people for whom lifestyle changes are not enough or ineffective. The first line of treatment is lifestyle changes including dietary changes, physical exercise and weight loss. These can significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. If hypertension is high enough to justify immediate use of medications, lifestyle changes are still recommended in conjunction with medication.

Around 95 per cent of the cases are primary hypertension, high blood pressure but no obvious cause. The remaining cases are secondary hypertension, high blood pressure due to diagnosed cause such as renal disease, hormonal disorder, pregnancy, anxiety and use of contraceptive pills. “In most of the cases there is no obvious reason behind hypertension. Causes are identifiable in five per cent of the cases. In such cases there is need of addressing the causes. When there is no obvious cause and lifestyle changes are not yielding desired results, the only solution is managing blood pressure through medication”, the doctor said.

Though there is proper infrastructure ranging from basic health units (BHUs) to tertiary referral centres, it is not benefitting the masses. The BHUs cover around 10,000 people, rural health centres (RHCs) 30,000 to 45,000 and THQ the population at sub-district level.

Utilisation of these units is generally low due to the lack of services and facilities, uncooperative staff and inaccessibility. It puts huge burden on DHQ and tertiary care or teaching hospitals, hampering service delivery.

The scenario is quite disturbing and requires an effective, radical, but immediate plan to increase the control rate of hypertension. The consequences can lead to unnecessary casualties or the development of further cardiac diseases, thus placing an additional burden on the patients and health system.