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    High Blood Pressure a part of Youngsters lives too!

    Hypertension- Is it really a disease of Old Age now?

    A 15 year old child came to my clinic 1 week back. He had constant headaches for the past 2 months. No medicines helped him, eye test was clear, he did not have acidity, we did all investigations, and yet we could not find the reason.

    And then suddenly, it stuck me that in these past 7 days, I had never checked his blood pressure. Why? Because he is a child!! Yes, he had high blood pressure at the age of 15 years. No other symptoms and all investigations were within normal limits.

    This is face of changing India. A disease of the old is now fast becoming a disease of the young. High blood pressure increases the load on the arteries and the heart. It also weakens the arteries and thus making them prone to rupture.

    Why is Hypertension growing so rapidly?

    Hypertension or high blood pressure, is a disease with many causes- both modifiable and non-modifiable. Our age, sex, race are aspects we cannot change, they are factors which are not in our hands and hence non-modifiable causes. Whereas our lifestyle is OUR choice. Lifestyle is not only about eating and sleeping right, it is also about the routine we follow, stress that we take, how this stress affects us, our exposure to pollution etc.

    Lifestyles have changed drastically- not only for the adults but for the children as well. 30 years back, 3 year old children did not eat processed butter, pizzas and burgers, they did not spend 5 hours a day with video games and television, and they did not carry heavy bags to school- unlike today’s children. By the time these children reach the age of 20 years, stress, sedentary habits and unhealthy eating choices are a mainstay in their life.

    1 in every 3 people today have high blood pressure and 50% of these people progress to complications of eyes and kidneys as well. Hypertension is called a “silent killer” as it does not show any specific symptoms and thus it often goes undiagnosed. Most people when diagnosed with hypertension, do not continue their medications due to the lack of symptoms. This poses a greater threat to their health as long standing high blood pressure weaken the blood vessels.

    Does high blood pressure have complications?

    via – American Heart Association

    A blood vessel is like a balloon- the more air you fill in it, the more it will expand. And when you deflate the balloon after a long time, it does not come back to its original size. This is exactly what happens to our arteries and veins when the blood pressure is high for a long time- they lose their elasticity and become fragile. Common complications seen are kidney damage, stroke (an artery bursting in the brain), angina, heart attack, eye problems etc.

    What are the reasons of Hypertension in youngsters?

    Among the varied causes of hypertension, what stands out most in today’s generation is their lifestyle.

    Increasing Stress levels

    Stress is of two basic types- Psychological or mental and Physical. Physical stress includes our exposure to chemicals, pollution, prolonged hours of sitting, increased number of hours spent in front of the computers, lack of sleep- all progressing to chronic fatigue syndrome. Where as psychological stress can be blamed on lack of family time, the need to excel professionally, financial uncertainties- leading to anxiety disorders.

    All these stresses are very common in our day to day life- a few of them unavoidable. Also, we now encounter these stresses at a much younger age- when our body is not ready to take up the challenge. During childhood, the body is still growing- which taxes the body, added to it the challenge to cope up with environmental stress as well- leads to mal-adaptations. These children in the long-run are more prone to lifestyle diseases and its complications.  

    Stress is of two basic types-

    via – Smithsonian Magazine

    Psychological or mental and Physical. Physical stress includes our exposure to chemicals, pollution, prolonged hours of sitting, increased number of hours spent in front of the computers, lack of sleep- all progressing to chronic fatigue syndrome. Where as psychological stress can be blamed on lack of family time, the need to excel professionally, financial uncertainties- leading to anxiety disorders.

    All these stresses are very common in our day to day life- a few of them unavoidable. Also, we now encounter these stresses at a much younger age- when our body is not ready to take up the challenge. During childhood, the body is still growing- which taxes the body, added to it the challenge to cope up with environmental stress as well- leads to mal-adaptations. These children in the long-run are more prone to lifestyle diseases and its complications.  

    Both the types of stress one have similar reaction from the body- increased secretion of cortisol, apart from other changes. An increase in cortisol, in turn increases anxieties, increases blood pressure levels, increased blood sugar levels and weakens the immunity. Some researchers have suggested that increased cortisol also favors reinforcing the memories of emotional stress, thus leading to long term harmful effects.

    In the past 20years, the stress levels have increased drastically. Almost 39% of the youngsters in the age of 18- 30 years are highly stressed and a staggering 34% of the suicides take place in this age group. Maharashtra is second only to Tamil Nadu in highest number of suicides in the country among the youth.

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