Hypertension in Indians: A chronic risk factor

Indians have been estimated to consume almost double the recommended intake of salt as evident from a study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India, resulting in various cardiovasular diseases, including hypertension, says Dr Ritesh Gupta

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Published: Oct 9, 2019 08:50:14 AM IST
Updated: Oct 9, 2019 02:13:48 PM IST

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Hypertension is the most important risk factor for chronic disease burden across the world. Global burden of diseases study in year 2017 reported high systolic BP as the leading risk factor across the globe that accounted for 10.2 million deaths. Indians are more prone to hypertension and heart disorders, and are affected at a younger age than the Europeans. The fourth District Level Household Survey reports an overall prevalence 25.3 per cent for hypertension in India that translates to around 207 million individuals. 

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The rapid economic growth of India has been accompanied by demographic, lifestyle and cultural changes which in turn has significantly impacted the health status of Indians. There are a number of key determinants for prevalence of hypertension in Indian population such as advancing age, changing lifestyle and dietary patterns, fitness status, alcohol intake, tobacco use, comorbidities, etc. Thus, there is an enormous challenge and an opportunity to improve the health status and prevention of chronic disease burden among Indians.

Salt And Hypertension

Indians have been estimated to consume almost double the recommended intake of salt as evident from a study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). The estimated average salt consumption among Indians is approximately 11 grams per day which is almost double the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended upper intake limit of 5 grams per day. This predisposes Indians to a high risk of developing various cardiovascular disorders including hypertension or high blood pressure. Different kinds of chutneys, pickles, papads and snacks are innate to different states of India. However, the high amount of salt used for preparation and seasoning of these food items is a matter of concern. Though low sodium salts such as rock salt, pink salt and black salt were native to India, and make a healthy option however, the gradual shift from these native forms to the modern refined table salt has added an unhealthy factor to the diet. The refined table salt is stripped of all the minerals is thus under-nutritious with the only benefit of Iodine that is added during its processing. Owing to its high sodium content, the table salt on intake expands the extracellular fluid volume and increases cardiac output. A high sodium intake also stresses the kidney by excreting more water and less toxic waste.

Substantial clinical evidence demonstrates positive effect of salt intake on the blood pressure. Opting for low salt and low sodium food options, limiting intake of canned and processed foods can help in significantly lowering down the sodium intake. Considering the health benefits to delay or prevent the incidence of hypertension in normotensive people, as well as positive impact on blood pressure lowering in hypertensive people, the efforts to restrict the salt intake is worthwhile and we should strive to achieve it.

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.

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