More and more doctors these days acknowledge that hypertension has grown into an epidemic and is not just limited to urban areas anymore. Rough estimates from a host of studies point to a 30 per cent prevalence of hypertension among adults, irrespective of whether they are from villages or cities.

Social change

What could be reasons for such a rise in hypertension cases?

“Social transformation. Like the expanding base of the middle class in cities, and the access to the trappings of a modern lifestyle in villages is a major reason. There is no desire or drive among both rural and urban populations towards physical activity anymore,” says noted hypertension specialist Venkat S. Ram.

Loose appetite

Not surprisingly, during 50s and 60s, the prevalence of hypertension in the country was just five per cent.

“We tend to eat a lot even though it’s not necessary. The minute we step out of our office or home, there is ready access to fast food everywhere. Worse, the rural population is not at all protected from hypertension,” Dr. Ram points out.

Hypertension seems to show no gender bias, with both men and women being equally at high risk of having high blood pressure. In fact, physicians point out that there is a general tendency of not acknowledging hypertension and heart ailments among women in the family, which makes them silent sufferers.

The lack of any direct symptoms is also a big reason for not acknowledging the presence of high blood pressure.

Risky rural

“Roughly, one out of three or four adults have blood pressure. While awareness levels have increased in cities, a lot of work remains to be done in rural areas. Hypertension is the leading factor behind heart attacks, brain strokes and kidney failures,” the specialist points out.

In a talk organised by the Public Gardens Walkers Association, Dr. Ram maintained that there was an urgent need for a rural health scheme that would provide affordable medicines to villagers.

“The challenge is to provide hypertension medicines at an affordable cost to villagers. Otherwise, they will discontinue medication. Untreated BP leads to several complications,” he added.

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