It is time for a national public health policy to keep a check on the problem, says Dr. Venkata S. Ram
Alarmed by the screening studies conducted in some Indian cities that revealed prevalence of high blood pressure among school-going children, a leading expert on hypertension has called for a national public health policy to ensure periodic check of blood pressure of children above 12 years of age.
“It is tip of the iceberg. Children having high blood pressure (hypertension) is unheard of in contemporary India,” remarked Dr. C.Venkata S.Ram, Director, Blood Pressure Clinics, Apollo Group of Hospitals and Director, Texas Blood Pressure Institute, Dallas, USA and Vice-President of American Society of Hypertension Specialists.
Talking to The Hindu, Dr.Ram, who was awarded Padmashri for hypertension and preventive cardiology last year, said hypertension in children was presumed to be rare.
However, screening studies for essential hypertension among schoolchildren in Indian cities showed a prevalence distribution of 0.46-11.7 per cent.
Observing that there was a correlation between high blood pressure, obesity and lack of physical activity, he said a study by Mohan and Kumar in Ludhiana had found a high incidence of hypertension in urban areas, particularly among obese children.
He said, while extreme BP was up to 10 per cent in children, obesity was 13.5 per cent, the studies showed. “It is quite significant even among screened population. When you have high BP, the tendency for it is to go up and not go down,” he pointed out.
Quoting another study, he said prevalence of pre-hypertension in both rural and urban areas was significant in younger age group.
Worldwide prevalence of pre-hypertension and hypertension was 17.3 per cent and 7.7 per cent in India. He said that nearly 25 per cent of adults in urban areas and 15 per cent adults in rural areas were suffering from hypertension.
He said 57 per cent of cardiovascular diseases occur due to high blood pressure, while pointing out that an estimated that 80-90 million adults in India had chronic hypertension.
Dr.Ram also suggested some kind of a national policy on salt content in packaged/processed foods.
He expressed concern over the tendency of people suffering from hypertension, including those from educated families, to stop taking medicines once BP becomes normal.
“People use the medicine as if it is an antibiotic. They should use it for some time and stop,” he said.