50-year-old Amit Gupta kept ignoring the urgency to visit a doctor despite suffering from severe high blood pressure - also known as hypertension. Instead of going in for specialised treatment, Gupta started popping pills on his own whenever he felt anxiety due to hypertension. Within a year, Gupta not just suffered two strokes but the blood vessel of his eyes also thickened, causing partial blindness. When he finally visited a doctor, he was told that due to consuming excessive unprescribed medicines, his kidneys had almost stopped functioning. A few months after, Gupta died of renal failure.
Medical experts across the globe are of the opinion that self-medication can often cause more harm than good. Self-medication has potential adverse interaction with prescription medication, especially in hypertension, which patients fail to understand.
"Hypertension should never be considered a minor health problem. The disease itself causes heart attacks, paralysis, renal failure, thickening of the arteries and several other diseases if ignored. A patient in such a situation should never think of self-medication," said Pradeep Gadge, Chief Diabetologist at Mumbai's Gadge's Diabetes Care Centre.
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Gupta also opined that Indians are still under the impression that high blood pressure can be controlled with simple medication, that women are less likely to suffer from it or that simple control on salt consumption will protect them from the ill-effects of high blood pressure. According to the union health ministry, at least 40 percent of the total urban population and 20 percent in rural India suffer from hypertension. The number is fast increasing due a sedentary lifestyle.
Gagdge who is also a visiting diabetologist at Breach Candy and Seven Hills Hospital, noted, "If hypertension is left untreated it can cause aneurysms, heart attacks and strokes without giving any early signs and symptoms.
Hypertension isn't usually accompanied by any symptoms, which makes it mandatory for the patients to go for a check-up at least once in a week." Recent studies show that hypertension is likely to end up being an epidemic in the near future, and approximately one-third of Indian population will suffer from it by 2020. Currently it is responsible for 7.1 million global deaths annually. Globally, South Africa has the highest number of high blood pressure patients.
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Pratik Soni, senior consultant of cardiology at Mumbai-based Wockhardt Hospitals, said that people with hypertension are mostly asymptomatic and therefore it is advisable for them to get their blood pressure checked regularly, especially if it runs in family or if a person is overweight. Calling the disease a silent killer, Soni said that hypertension is no more restricted to the elderly population and has started occurring among the younger ones.
"Change in the lifestyle of the youth, lack of nutritious food, steroids and oral contraceptives are among the major reasons that are causing hypertension among the young population," said Mr. Soni. Statistics say that at least 33 percent of the Indian population remains unaware of the fact that they have hypertension. This largely includes the younger population.
"When a person comes to know about the problem of hypertension and blood pressure it is very late. To avoid the expenditure on the medicines people start self medication and at the end suffer from premature death and disability," said R.K. Singal, director and head of internal medicine at Delhi based B.L. Kapoor hospital.
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Vipul Gupta, head of neurointerventional surgery at Gurgaon-based Medanta Medicity recommended that adults should not consume more than five grams of salt per day. Sodium content is high in processed commercial food. Those who suffer from high blood pressure should therefore be cautious of consuming packaged food.
"People who are diagnosed with hypertension, apart from proper prescribed medicines, should consume fruit and vegetables each day, avoid fat, limit the amount of sugar, quit smoking and most importantly reduce the stress levels," concluded Mr. Gupta.
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