The link between blood pressure and suicides

By Vibha Varshney
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015


An urban doctor whom I contacted for the story on hypertension in rural India told me that I would never be able to link stress to the increased incidence of the disease.

True–there are no studies on this. But the rural heartland of the country is in itself a proof.  The doctors we talked to said that constant stress was the main reason for high blood pressure in their patients.

Patients themselves concurred. It could be that the word “tension” in hypertension tips them off. But I don't think so. Most people are averse to be labeled “sick”. Ram Avtar Yadav of Dhankot village in Haryana's Gurgaon district is one such example.

The young cloth shop owner was in a state of denial. In February 2011, a checkup at the blood donation camp in the village showed that his blood pressure was high. When we talked to him in March, he said that his blood pressure was normal when he got it checked the next day. He said he could prove it by getting his blood pressure checked by the doctor next door in front of us. Unfortunately for him, the neighborhood doctor D K Singh put his blood pressure at 140/92.

Yadav was nearly in tears and went out quietly while I was talking to the doctor. Rani, a community worker from St. Stephan's hospital's outreach centre in the village, linked it to the fact that Yadav's wife was mentally unbalanced.

The story does not end with the person being diagnosed with hypertension. It is leading to breakages in the family. In Dhankot, Meena Sharma's son lives with his uncle now because when he stays at home, he ends up cooking and taking care of his parents instead of studying. He, too, is under stress.

In rural areas, mortality due to hypertension finds a parallel in deaths due to suicides–now common among farmers. Killing themselves is the only option when the farmers are unable to repay loans or when their crops fail. Sociological studies link suicides to periods of stress. But stress is also a slow killer–it can increase blood pressure and lead to untimely death. But there are no studies, sociological or otherwise, to link stress to hypertension. This is despite the fact that it is as easy to measure as a suicide.

Indian Council of Medical Research had a novel opportunity to study the link when they conducted a survey of seven states on risk factors for chronic diseases in 2010. They just linked hypertension to the usual suspects including diet, alcohol and tobacco. It is time a linkage between stress and hypertension is made. It would help if the hypertension is treated more than just a risk factor for chronic diseases. There are many studies claiming that changing lifestyles have taken heart diseases to rural areas–a check on hypertension would be a good way to handle heart health.

The forum to talk about hypertension would be the WHO Global Forum being held in Moscow April where 27 member states would discuss the 36 million deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCD) like that of heart and lung; cancer and diabetes. The meeting aims to find ways of preventing chronic diseases. Another forum would be the UN General Assembly meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs in September this year.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for a strongly worded letter saying that we are wrong in linking hypertension to stress in rural areas.

Read: Once considered an urban malaise, hypertension is on the rise in rural India.


Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.

  • Good Article. An interesting

    Good Article.
    An interesting study: Wayne State University students study risk factors of common diseases in rural India
    April 5, 2011,W, Wayne State University,Public Relations): reveals interesting facts on Hypertension and Diabetes.
    ÔÇ£In India, high blood pressure, or hypertension, has become a major health problem. According to Afonso, urban studies have shown a steadily increasing trend in hypertension prevalence over the last 40 years, yet there is minimal knowledge of the nature of both hypertension and diabetes in rural India.
    "They've done many urban studies in India, but as far as rural populations, especially in South India, there's not much data on high blood pressure or diabetes," said Dhaliwal.
    Having already developed a non-profit called RHINO (Rural Health International Non-profit Organization) in 2009 with fellow WSU student Ajay Gopalakrisha, the students partnered with India-based NGO Sacred Trust in response to the lack of health statistics and health care access in rural India. Together, they developed a medical camp to serve the residents of Doddamuddavadi in the summer of 2010.
    "Many of the people in rural India are farmers and don't have a lot of money," Dhaliwal said. Getting to a hospital about an hour away is a huge deal to them, and they can't do that. So the camp gave them a place to go."
    With help from one doctor and 12 nurses, Dhaliwal and Mandalaparty treated and collected data from 345 patients of all ages and genders. The data included basic height, weight, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, daily activities and basic habits, such as smoking or alcohol consumption.
    With the help of Anil Aranha, Ph.D., a statistician in WSU's School of Medicine, the students' data revealed that nearly 40 percent of the patients had diabetes. Approximately 60 percent of the village's population had high blood pressure, the incidence of which was higher in older age groups in both male and female populations. "We were expecting high rates of elevated blood pressure, but were shocked at how high the numbers were," said Mandalaparty.
    There was a low prevalence of obesity in the study population, however. This correlated with high rates of vegetarianism among the patients, 64 percent of whom also stayed active with at least eight hours of farming and manual labor each day.
    As they continue to analyze the statistics, Mandalaparty and Dhaliwal hope to set up a student organization through RHINO at WSU to raise funds and purchase basic medical equipment, "so the doctor can do more right in the village," said Mandalaparty. "They don't have basic access to health services there and we want to provide them with everything they need."
    India has more than 30 million people with diabetics. The number of diabetics climb steeply day by day. It is estimated that by 2025, India will be number one in the world with the maximum number of people with diabetes. This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s press release in 1998. According to that, these people will be in the age group 40 and 64.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Posted by: Anonymous | 9 years ago | Reply
  • In market you can find a

    In market you can find a range of digital bp monitor with multi feature. You can also try it to know more the data with accuracy.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • yes Sneha you are right.

    yes Sneha you are right. There is no need to do suicide. If you have the alternative option, then why we need to go the wrong way.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • Because of stress many disease can get occur. Thank you for sharing this story.

    Posted by: Pharmaceutical Export | 2 years ago | Reply
  • thank you for sharing this information

    Posted by: Buy Protein Powder | 2 years ago | Reply
  • The number of diabetics climb steeply day by day. It is estimated that by 2025, India will be number one in the world with the maximum number of people with diabetes. you also visit meddco

    Posted by: Shweta | one year ago | Reply