India’s Hypertension Crisis: How Ethnicity and salt intake are contributing factors
Numerous studies have revealed that Indians are more likely to have hypertension than people from other regions of the world, such as Europe, and that this is due to a variety of factors, including lifestyle modifications, multiple medical conditions, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, dietary patterns, ethnic background, and high salt intake—the latter two of which are the subject of this article.
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About India’s Hypertension Crisis: How Ethnicity and salt intake are contributing factors
Over the past few decades, scientists and academics have thoroughly documented the global burden of hypertension as a risk factor for a number of fatal diseases. According to the World Heart Federation, it really contributes to at least 10 million deaths per year and is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease globally.
The same survey stated that hypertension impacted 1.3 billion people worldwide, but there are signs that India may be one of the centre points of the disease. India has set a goal to reduce the overall rate of hypertension (high blood pressure) by 25% by 2025, according to the World Health Organisation.
The Indian government has therefore started the Indian Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI) in order to speed up access to treatment options for the roughly 220 million people in India who have hypertension. WHO emphasises further that only 12% of Indians with hypertension have undergone blood pressure management.
Numerous studies have revealed that Indians are more likely to have hypertension than people from other regions of the world, such as Europe, and that this is due to a variety of factors, including lifestyle modifications, comorbidities, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, dietary patterns, ethnicity, and high salt intake—the latter two of which are the subject of this article.
Key highlights of India’s hypertension crisis: How ethnicity and salt intake are contributing factors
|Name of the topic||India’s hypertension crisis: How ethnicity and salt intake are contributing factors|
|Disease||Hypertension (High blood pressure)|
|Reason||Genetic (Ethnic), Dietary pattern and many more|
Why is hypertension associated with Indian ethnicity?
According to Sanjeev Jain, Jt. Managing Director, Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, “When one analyses the different components that make up an ethnic group, it’s clear to see how ethnicity plays a role in hypertension.
- First, regardless of size, all ethnic groups share a common ancestor or at least a shared ancestry. According to scientific evidence, high blood pressure can be passed down from generation to generation. This is why a strong risk factor for hypertension is family history. As a result, India’s rate of hypertension has likely remained constant through many generations.
- Another explanation could be that individuals of the same ethnicity have comparable dietary preferences, lifestyles, and behaviours, which could be a risk factor for high blood pressure. However, there have been significant cultural, social, and demographic changes in India in recent years that may also be to blame for altered health trends and a worsening of the health of Indians. One example is the rise in consumption of alcohol and processed, fatty, stored meals, particularly among urban millennials and Gen Zs.
The relationship between salt and high blood pressure in India
At least 90% of the sodium that humans consume is found in salt, and high sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure in humans. The science is straightforward: eating a lot of salt boosts the blood’s salt content, which attracts water.
This causes more blood to flow through the capillaries, increasing pressure because more blood is required to do it. Because of this challenging circumstance, sodium levels in the blood must always be controlled, especially by keeping a balanced salt consumption, advises Jain.
Numerous studies have discovered a greater rate of hypertension in nations and regions with increased salt intake. This is also true in India. Let’s look at some statistics that support this trend. According to numerous research, the average Indian nowadays consumes 10–11 grammes of salt per day.
This is more than double the daily salt intake advised by the World Health Organisation, which calls for individuals to consume no more than 2000 mg of sodium (or 5 g of salt) each day.
Eating outdoor meals affects blood pressure levels.
This already increases the danger of blood pressure increases for many Indians. Some analysts have linked food orders, frequent consumption of snacks, and reliance on fast food to this excessive salt intake. This is true, in a way.
According to a study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a significant portion of the ultra-processed foods available in the Indian food market contain a variety of additives, including excessive salt and saturated fats. 10,500 goods that have a nutrition facts panel with comprehensive nutrition information were examined.
According to the regional requirements of the WHO, they discovered that just 32% are within the limit. Other studies have found that pickles and papads are two common accompaniments with higher than recommended salt levels. Additionally, processed food and bakery goods—the food eaten as snacks—contain salt in a variety of forms.
What is Hypertension?
A chronic medical illness called hypertension sometimes referred to as high blood pressure (HBP), is characterised by a consistently high blood pressure in the blood vessels. Symptoms of high blood pressure are uncommon. However, high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for memory loss, cardiac arrest, blood vessel disease, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, coronary artery disease, and heart failure. Around the world, hypertension is a key factor in premature death.
Primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension are two different types of high blood pressure. 90–95% of cases of high blood pressure are primary, which is described as being brought on by general lifestyle and hereditary factors. Lifestyle variables that raise the risk include eating too much salt, being overweight, smoking, being inactive, and drinking alcohol.
The other 5–10% of instances are classified as secondary hypertension, which is high blood pressure that is brought on by a known condition, such as chronic kidney disease, artery narrowing in the kidneys, an endocrine issue, or the use of birth control pills.
The key message to be safe from hypertension
- In addition to abstaining from tobacco and excessive alcohol use, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in regular exercise, controlling your salt intake is one strategy for preventing cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. The prevalence of hypertension can be significantly decreased in India by consuming fewer takeouts and fast foods, less refined table salt, and generally eating a diet low in salt in accordance with WHO recommendations.
- Alternative salts to table salt According to Jain, using natural spices in place of refined table salt can help Indians lower their blood pressure levels and prevent heart disease. Other low-sodium choices include rock salt, black salt, and pink salts.
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