The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Multiple malady alert on pressure
- Hypertension attacks more than the heart

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare may soon blow over, but a debilitating disease is stalking urban homes here like never before. Hypertension, an age-old threat, is assuming alarming proportions and triggering multiple maladies.

For, cardiologists and surgeons are sending out danger signals that anything above 140/90 makes you vulnerable to not just cerebral and cardiac attacks, but also eye, nerve and kidney damage.

Over 70 per cent of the high-blood pressure cases being treated by city doctors are accompanied by other ailments, ranging from haemorrhage in the eyes to renal failure to neurological problems to dissection of the aorta.

“Newer complications, like dissection of the aorta or neurological problems, never before associated in the city with high blood pressure, are now striking with amazing regularity,” says Ajay Kaul, cardiac surgeon at B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre.

“This is directly linked to the acute stress and increasing tension at the workplace and an undisciplined lifestyle.” The Alipore hospital, which operated upon seven aorta-dissection cases in the past 18 months, has tackled three such cases already in the past five weeks.

Woodlands Hospital, too, is admitting more and more “extra-complication” cases now, confirm doctors. “The problem with Calcuttans is they tend to ignore high blood pressure completely, though it is mandatory for everyone (particularly those with a family history) to report the slightest fluctuation of pressure to doctors,” observes cardiac specialist Debdatta Bhattacharya.

Prevention, of course, is better than cure. “We are emphasising the preventive aspects after taking a careful look at the complications surfacing now,” says Kunal Sarkar, consultant cardiac surgeon with the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences.

“When I first performed an aorta-dissection surgery in the city, it was news. Now, however, the regularity of such cases has made it less newsworthy but definitely more worrisome,” he adds.

Doctors are reiterating the need to follow the preventive prescription to keep hypertension at bay –

—Exercise for an hour at least thrice a week

—Check blood pressure at least twice a year

—Reduce obesity

—Cut down on alcohol intake

—Restrict salt in diet.

Cardiologist and ITU specialist Subrata Maitra of Woodlands Hospital is among those who have started counselling patients on the importance of modifying their lifestyle. “We are receiving a lot of patients suffering from high blood pressure, who also report haemorrhage in the eyes and kidney failure,” he says, emphasising the need for ‘lifestyle correction’.

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