A gentleman who was diagnosed with high blood pressure thought his levels were under control because he had sworn off salt completely. But he was dealt a shock of his life during his routine check-up when the doctor informed that blood pressure was off the charts! It turns out that while he religiously avoided salt in his food, he didn’t hold back from processed sweets, canned food and readymade sauces. Sadly, he didn’t know that processed sweets could also contain sodium, a common offender that causes high BP.
Hypertension is one of the commonest lifestyle ailments afflicting Indians and according to the Journal of Human Hypertension, it is directly responsible for 57 percent of all stroke deaths and 24 percent of all coronary heart diseases in India. But despite being so widespread, hypertension is understood very poorly among the Indian population. This stunning lack of awareness about the condition contributes towards late diagnosis and complications. “There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding blood pressure and its treatment. Understanding and debunking these myths is important, not just to change your numbers but for overall health,” says Dr. Sanjay Shah, Consultant Physician & Internist, Fortis Hospital Mulund helps us list down eight of the commonest misconceptions about hypertension.
Myth 1: There is nothing we can do to prevent hypertension
Truth: Even if a person shows many risk factors, a few preventive steps taken in the right direction can help control and prevent high BP. These include judicious weight control, healthy food habits, low sodium consumption, regular exercise and stress relief.
Myth 2: One abnormal reading of high BP means I have Hypertension!
Truth: One abnormal reading is not enough; a doctor can diagnose hypertension only after taking several BP readings over a period of time.
Myth 3: I don’t use table salt; so I am in control of my salt intake.
Truth: Seventy-five percent of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed in foods like sauces, soups, canned food, butter and cheese; not actually in table salt or homecooked food.
Myth 4: High BP is always caused by poor diet and a lack of activity.
Truth: Certain diet and lifestyle does influence our blood pressure, but there are definite non-modifiable risk factors like age, family history and ethnicity, which also have a role to play.
Myth 5: I use sea salt/ rock salt/ pink salt when I cook instead of regular table salt since they are low in sodium.
Truth: Chemically, the sodium content in all these salt varieties is the same.
Myth 6: People with high BP have headaches, dizzy spells, nervousness and sweating and poor sleep patterns. I don’t have any of these, so I don’t have hypertension.
Truth: Most of the time, hypertension is silent! It does not produce symptoms. Usually, hypertension comes to notice during a routine BP check-up.
Myth 7: I don’t have to check BP at home.
Truth: It is always good to keep an easy-to-operate a BP monitor at home, as it will help you keep a track. It will also help your doctor make proper medication or dose adjustment, if necessary.
Myth 8: Once my BP is controlled, I can stop consuming medicines.
Truth: Once you are on medication for hypertension, you may need to take it lifelong, unless advised otherwise by your physician. Suddenly stopping consumption of your BP medicines can produce ‘rebound hypertension’ which can be dangerous.
“Maintaining a nutritious and a well-balanced diet can help curb high BP,” says Dr. Shah. “A DASH diet is to be adopted with your physician’s guidance.” To keep hypertension away, he recommends having ½ serving of low-fat dairy each day, plenty of bean proteins, three servings of whole grains, a healthy dose of vitamin D, omega three fatty acids, high sugar intake and plenty of fruits and vegetables.