Hypertension and obesity are dangerous health conditions that can cause multiple other health complications. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, it is even more important to keep both in check because they are comorbid conditions of COVID-19 and can make it fatal.
So, Dr Ketan L Pakhale (Bariatric Physician and specialist in Metabolism Syndrome) delivered a webinar on hypertension and obesity recently. He explained several concepts related to hypertension and obesity so that we all can understand these disorders better and take the right action at the right time.
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a health condition in which three of the following disorders occur simultaneously in a person-
- High level of triglycerides in lipid profile
So what does it mean if a person has metabolic syndrome? These people are more likely to develop heart disorders such as heart attack or cardiac arrest. According to a survey, nearly 60% of people have this syndrome.
Dr Pakhale stresses on the need of taking metabolic syndrome seriously because it is actually a cluster of major diseases.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension means a rise in blood pressure. According to older guidelines issued by the American Heart Association, if blood pressure exceeds 120/80 mm of Hg, then it can damage your heart. But today, the person’s physical condition, age, lifestyle choices, medical history and the presence of certain symptoms such as chest pain, headache or breathlessness will determine if the person has hypertension.
If you are diagnosed with hypertension, you will be prescribed medicines and you will constantly need to monitor your blood pressure.
Why does hypertension arise?
Our lives are stressful and it is the primary cause of hypertension. During the COVID-19 lockdown, stress has reached an all-time high. Anxiety about the loss of income, stressful conditions at home, worrying about the health of our loved ones can increase your blood pressure.
People who chew tobacco or smoke for long periods are likely to develop hypertension. Alcohol intake is another definitive cause of hypertension.
Being overweight leads to hypertension. It is a vicious cycle. Obesity causes hypertension, which in turn is linked to diabetes and dyslipidemia. And you can also develop metabolic syndrome. You may also develop kidney complications, thyroid disorders, PCOD etc.
- The foods you consume
Spicy foods that people usually love are bad news for their blood pressure. Soft drinks too are especially toxic for your body because of the presence of excessive sugar and preservatives (chemicals).
High salt intake is also linked to hypertension because sodium causes water retention. It makes people crave for fatty foods that are cooked in refined oils, which are not good for your health at all.
Food sweeteners used in desserts, ice creams, beverages also need to be avoided as much as possible. You can consume them in moderation. But if you consume too much of sweeteners, it can make you obese and give you hypertension.
In women, menopause is another reason that might cause hypertension.
How can you prevent hypertension or keep it in check?
- According to Dr Pakhale, you should try to avoid or consume the following foods in small amounts to control hypertension –
- Desserts, sweets and ice creams
- Soft drinks
- Processed or canned foods
- Foods containing preservatives
- Deep-fried fast foods
- Be physically active. Doing planks & walking inside your home are some exercises to keep your body fit. Working out also initiates the secretion of endorphins (happiness hormone) that beats stress and prevents hypertension.
- People with hypertension need to take medicines. Medication is very effective in managing hypertension. So you must follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medicines on time.
- 5 minutes of meditation is mandatory to keep your mind peaceful and increase your concentration.
What are the health complications caused by long-term hypertension?
- Retinopathy- In this condition, the blood vessels in your retina burst and this causes blurry vision or loss of vision.
- Chronic Kidney damage and even kidney failure where dialysis will be required.
- Atherosclerosis: In this condition, your blood vessels become inflexible and hard because of fat deposition.
What is obesity?
1 out of every 2 Indians is obese. It increases the likelihood of premature death. In India, obesity is still not acknowledged as a major disease.
Obesity is excess visceral fat. When fats accumulate in your body, the cells are packed closely together and this cuts off the oxygen supply.
This can lead to hypertension, PCOD and diabetes. Even children can become obese and in the future, they too will develop the above-mentioned illnesses or even cancer. Obesity also makes people feel insecure about their looks and they may even suffer social stigma.
However, if you lose weight, it will immediately reduce the risk of contracting other dangerous illnesses. It has also been observed that with proper weight control measures, people were able to stop taking medicines for hypertension, diabetes and antidepressants.
So what causes obesity?
When you consume more food than you need and your energy expenditure is low, it leads to obesity.
Obesity is preventable, reversible and treatable.
People with obesity can also opt for bariatric surgery. But afterwards, they need to be careful about their diet or they might become malnourished.
Steps to take during the pandemic to manage hypertension and obesity
- Eat healthily and in small portions.
- Take up exercise challenges to reduce weight and improve your metabolic health.
Maintaining your metabolic health is the key to a life free of health complications. Now, more than ever, we need to be utterly cautious about what we eat, our physical activities and lifestyle choices. With proper measures, metabolic syndrome can be kept at bay.
Q. Can hypothyroidism be caused by grief over the loss of a loved one?
A. Hypertension can be caused by the stress and trauma triggered by the demise of a loved one. But it is temporary and with medication, proper diet and physical exercise and meditation, it can be taken care of.
Sometimes hypertension can result in hypothyroidism.