According to official medical figures, one in ten residents of Kolkata suffers from hypertension or high blood pressure (BP).
Young go-getters are the recent victims. They work hard, sleep less, de-stress unhealthily and keep pushing themselves up the larder, even if their bodies yell in protest.
According to experts, hypertension, along with diabetes gives birth to a host of ailments, including cardiac and kidney problems.
Hypertension, after one's forties is common enough (15% of the entire population). Yet alarmed doctors are reporting people in their thirties or even their twenties as having the ailment. In that respect, more than any other metro Kolkata has more hypertension and diabetes patients. Within the city, in the eastern regions, which are seeing a major economic boom of late, 13% of the population has hypertension.
"Stress is a major cause of hypertension, particularly among those in their early 30s and 40s. We are seeing cases among those who don't have a family history of high pressure. Their stressful, sedentary lifestyle is the roof of the problem," observes cardiac surgeon M K Mandhana.
High blood pressure can lift the risks of heart attack, kidney diseases, hardening of arteries, eye damage and stroke.
Hypertension is not called 'silent killer' for nothing. It can remain undetected for years or even decades, before a secondary problem arises. Individuals who seem to be healthy may actually be suffering from hypertension without any symptoms.
"It is more dangerous because of the absence of symptoms. At times, a person can feel headache, dizziness, shortness of breath and blurred vision. In case any of these symptoms are repeated, it is best to go to a doctor and get the blood pressure checked," warns V K Gupta, a general physician.
Experts vouch that if high blood pressure, after 50, can be reduced by even 10 mm Hg, the chances of reducing heart attacks, renal failures or strokes are slashed by half.
The cause of hypertension is not known in most of the cases. This is called essential hypertension and can sometimes be tackled with exercise and diet alone. Only in five per cent of the cases, is there a major complication in any organ that can result in high blood pressure (secondary hypertension). Chronic kidney diseases, tumors, a narrowing of the aorta, pregnancy, use of birth control pills, thyroid dysfunction, some over-the-counter cold medications as well as regular consumption of alcohol can cause secondary hypertension.
"In most of these cases, the problems can be reduced at an early age. But unfortunately in our society, we don't go for early screening. People come to us after there is a secondary problem like heart or kidney ailment. If it is detected early, hypertension can be tackled at the general practitioner's level and there is no need to rush to a cardiologist," stresses cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar.