The proportion of adults with hypertension who are aware of their diagnosis are treated and achieve control is low in India.

An estimated 207 million adults are living with hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) in India. Healthy readings for blood pressure are usually considered below 120/80 mmHg.

A recent large-scale nationally representative study of hypertension care in India showed more than half of the population wasn’t aware of their hypertensive status, and less than one in 10 of those screened had their blood pressure under control.

Since people screened were in the productive age group of 15 years and 49 years, experts find it all the more worrisome.

“It’s alarming as our non-communicable disease burden is rising, and the study shows hypertension prevalence rising from 12% to 45% in some states. And the control is very poor; in some states, it’s 2% that can lead to heart attack and stroke,” says Dr Ashish Awasthi, co-author of the study and assistant professor, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

Hypertension is called a silent killer as it largely goes unnoticed for there are mostly no obvious symptoms. However, the condition affects your major organs such as the heart, brain and kidneys over a period of time.

Keeping a close watch is important. This year’s World Hypertension Day theme is also “know your numbers”, to create awareness about blood pressure monitoring.

“Home blood pressure monitoring is the preferred way, and has been reaffirmed by the European Society of Hypertension’s new guidelines as a person is most relaxed when at home, so the numbers are accurate,” says Dr RR Kasliwal, chairman, clinical and preventive cardiology, Medanta Hospital.

Lifestyle modification such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, exercising for 30 minutes with moderate intensity etc., is as important as medicines to keep the blood pressure controlled.

“Another important factor is reducing salt intake. Don’t sprinkle salt over your salads. Avoid pickles, papad or chutneys and processed food that is high in salt. Even some sweet items such as jams and bakery as salt in it, so we need to be aware,” says professor D Prabhakaran, centre for control of chronic conditions, PHFI.

How to read warning signs

-Headache first thing in the morning

-Sweating

-Fatigue

-Deep snoring at night