This is the first post in a four-part series on the scourge of Diabetes and Hypertension. This one explains the diseases and the risks associated with it. The subsequent posts will deal with information on prevention, details on diet, exercise and stress management techniques.
Sarabjit, is 35, and determined to make it to the top in the bank he works at. He works really hard, travels quite a bit and so doesn’t really have time to exercise and neither is he able to stick to a very healthy diet. He doesn’t exercise much given his busy lifestyle but he is anything but obese – in fact Sarabjit has a lean body frame.
It also happens that Sarabjit has type-2 diabetes and also has been diagnosed with high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure.
And he isn’t an exception in corporate India. There is a silent epidemic sweeping the population. A stressful work life, lack of attention to one’s diet, limited or non-existent exercise routines are all taking a toll. In fact a recent study called SITE (Screening India’s Twin Epidemic) highlighted a grim reality – three out of five Indians (1) have either diabetes or hypertension or both!
The link between Diabetes and High Blood Pressure
It is not really known why there is such a significant correlation between the two, but it is assumed that obesity, a bad diet and inactivity are leading to a rise in both cases.
Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer between most people are not aware that they have a problem – till its too late!
To better appreciate how high blood pressure comes about, let me take a quick detour and explain what blood pressure is and what those two terms Diastolic and Systolic really mean.
Blood pressure is a measure of the force (in mmHg) of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels. In hypertension, the blood is pumped with a greater force making the heart work harder. Over time, a consistently higher blood pressure tires the heart muscles and can enlarge it. This raises the risk of diabetic complications which affect almost every organ of the body especially the heart, kidneys, eyes and the neuromuscular system.
A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm is considered normal in healthy people. What exactly is this? The above number (140) known as the systolic pressure is the pressure with which the blood is pushed through the heart to the body. The below number (90) or the diastolic pressure is the pressure when the heart relaxes and refills the blood.
Diabetes has been known since the first century B.C.E., when a Greek physician, Aretus the Cappadocian, named it diabainein, meaning “a siphon,” referring to the excessive urination associated with the disease. The word diabetes was first recorded in 1425, and in 1675, the Greek mellitus, “like honey,” was added, to reflect the sweet smell and taste of the patient’s urine. An unrelated and rare disorder, diabetes insipidus, is usually caused by a hormone deficiency. (2)
Simply put Diabetes means uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Though there are different forms of diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes or Diabetes mellitus is the most common type. The main contributors to high blood sugars are insulin resistance and/or less production of insulin.
Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that allows the body to control the blood sugar levels. In insulin resistance, the body’s cells are unable to use the insulin efficiently. Due to which more and more insulin is required to metabolize the glucose that comes through our food. For a period, the pancreas is able to meet the increased insulin demands. This helps keep the blood sugar levels within normal range; about 70-100 mg/dl on fasting and lower than 140 mg/dl post meals.
Eventually the over burdened pancreas gives up resulting in little or no insulin production and the blood sugar levels begin to rise resulting in Diabetes.
Age is not necessarily an insurance against hypertension or diabetes. An unhealthy lifestyle can aggravate matters and things can quickly spiral out of control. The combination of hypertension and type-2 diabetes is more dangerous and significantly increase the risk of a stroke. It also increases the chances kidney failure and blindness (retinopathy)
Here is a quick list for you to check if you display any of the early indicators for these deadly diseases:
- Abnormal belly fat or a waist circumference of more than 90 cms.
- Rise in high blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Sugar cravings, especially after meals
- Extreme tiredness, especially after meals
- Visual problems
- Frozen shoulders
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty losing weight
- Increase in thirst and appetite
- High-fat, high-sodium diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Advanced age
- Too little potassium or vitamin D
- Too much alcohol
Getting a blood pressure reading takes just 30 seconds. If you have the kfit Health ATM installed in your office – head over there right now and get it done! Once you get your report, see which of these categories your reading falls into.
- Normal blood pressure is below 120 systolic and below 80 diastolic.
- Prehypertension is 120-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic.
- Stage 1 high blood pressure (hypertension) is 140-159 systolic or 90-99 diastolic.
- Stage 2 high blood pressure (hypertension) is 160 or higher systolic or 100 or higher diastolic.
- Hypertensive crisis; a medical emergency, is when systolic is above 180 or 110 above diastolic.
The consequences of delaying a diagnosis:
Due to the surreptitious nature of the disease and its complications, it goes undetected in most people. There is absolutely no clear sign and symptoms till the disease emerge out in its full form where it’s too late to reverse them.
There is an irrational fear of getting oneself checked, especially among younger individuals; which is becoming a major cause of delayed diagnosis. Lack of awareness about hypertension and its complications, myths surrounding the disease management makes the treatment and management difficult.
A timely intervention with regards to the treatment and apt lifestyle changes for both the conditions can actually reverse the condition.
In the next post I will talk in detail about Diagnosis, risk factors of delaying treatments, ways to prevent these diseases.
- Prevalence of Diagnosed and Undiagnosed Diabetes and Hypertension in India – Results from the Screening India’s Twin Epidemic (SITE) Study, http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/dia.2011.024
- Vocabulary, definition of diabetes. https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/diabetes
- Image credit: Freeimages.com, freeicons and the noun project.