Poor and the young are new victims of hypertension
Till recently, hypertension was considered an urban malaise. A compilation of countrywide data collected over the past few decades showed 25 per cent of urban population as hypertensive. Only 10 per cent rural people had high blood pressure. This data was compiled by the Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC), a Delhi-based non-profit, in 2009 as part of a World Bank study on non-communicable diseases.
But a recent study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in seven states reveals hypertension has blunted the urban-rural divide. In fact, in some states the disease is more prevalent in rural areas than urban.
|Varying BP limits add to confusion|
|Ever since hypertension was identified a risk factor for non-communicable diseases, the blood pressure level considered harmful has been changed frequently. Studies conducted on the subject have been highly localised, small-scale and on people of different ages. As a result, they cannot be compared to show a trend.
The US’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world’s foremost medical research centres, has been releasing regular reports of its Joint National Committee (JNC) on prevention, detection, evaluation and treatment of high blood pressure since 1976. Its seventh report, released in 2003, defined prehypertension for the first time. It considers people with systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mmHg and diastolic pressure of 80- 89 mmHg pre-hypertensive.
Beyond the pressure of 115/75 mmHg, the risk of heart ailments doubles with every rise of 20/10 mmHg, states the report. The eighth JNC report is likely to be released soon. In India, a 1954 study—based on a higher cut-off of 160/95 mmHg— showed just 4 per cent industrial workers in Kanpur were hypertensive.
Using the same limit, a Delhi study conducted in 1984 found that only 3 per cent of the population had hypertension. But another study conducted in Delhi between 1984 and 1987 said almost 11 per cent men and 12 per cent women in urban pockets had high blood pressure. The figures for men and women in rural areas were 4 and 3 per cent respectively. The cut-off used was 160/90 mmHg.
Studies conducted in Jaipur in 1994, 2001 and 2003 show rise in cases of hypertension. These used 140/90 mmHg as the cut-off and showed an increase in hypertension cases from 30 per cent in 1994 to 36 per cent to 51 per cent in men and from 34 per cent to 38 per cent to 51 per cent among women. These mixed signals make assessment of a trend difficult.
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