World Hypertension Day 2013: How your heartbeats affect your BP

World Hypertension day 2013May 17 is World Hypertension Day.

According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), one in three people world over suffer from high blood pressure*. With India forming a significant part of this statistic, it is time we took notice. This year's theme for World Hypertension day is 'Healthy Heart Beat-Healthy Blood Pressure'. In this post, we have tried to explain what the relation between the two is.

How are heartbeats connected to blood pressure?

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When the heart beats, it acts like a pump that takes in de-oxygenated blood from the body, and pushes out oxygenated blood with great pressure. The pushing out of blood leads to pressure being exerted by the blood on the blood vessels in the body. This is known as blood pressure. Although the workings of the heart are not that simple, the explanation shows that there is a direct correlation between the number of heartbeats and blood pressure. In some cases the heart may beat at a normal rate, but due to other factors, like blocks in the blood vessels, irregularities of the valves within the heart etc, a person could suffer from high blood pressure. According to Dr Aashish Contractor, preventive cardiologist at the Asian Heart Institute, 'Optimal blood pressure is below 120/80. A person can be diagnosed with high blood pressure if his/her BP is above 140/90. Anything in between is considered as borderline'.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Apart from this, some people might suffer from a condition called Atrial fibrillation or AF. Although this condition is not very common, people with this condition experience extremely irregular heartbeats, which then leads to high or low blood pressure, dizziness and in some cases can lead to a heart attack or stroke. It may have no symptoms and can only be detected by either checking the pulse, or by a healthcare professional. An episode of AF can lead to formation of blood clots, which may flow out of the heart and cause blocks in other blood vessels, leading to severe consequences strokes. AF episodes first start off intermittently and may become permanent in the long run.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is the most common risk factor that leads to AF. If both AF and hypertension coexist, it puts a person at higher risk of suffering from a stroke.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of stroke.

What is normal and what isn't when it comes to heartbeats?

According to Dr Aashish Contractor, 'a normal heart rate consists of 60-90 heart beats per minute, when a person is at rest. Anything above or below this can be considered abnormal'. According to specialists, a heart rate that is higher than 100 to 150 beats is considered extremely dangerous. Symptoms usually range from feeling faint, uneasiness usually in the chest, fainting etc.

How does one detect any kind of abnormality in the heartbeats?

If a person feels that his/her heartbeat might be above or below normal, the best way to detect it is to simply measure his/her blood pressure and pulse rate. In the case of patients who are suffering from AF, their doctor will perform some simple tests to detect it. He/she may perform tests like an EKG (Electrocardiography), Holter test, Stress test, chest X-ray, and in some cases a blood test as well. All these tests are absolutely painless and non invasive in nature. If a doctor finds it difficult to detect the extent of the AF he may prescribe an Transoesophageal echocardiography (TEE). This is a test where the doctor will use a probe to check for irregular heartbeats through the oesophagus.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension.

What are the treatment options for irregular heartbeats?

There are basically two ways to control irregular heartbeats, they are - the rhythm control method and rate control method.

The aim of the rhythm control method is to regularize a person's heartbeat. A doctor may primarily choose to treat a patient with medication, and if that fails, the patient might be given a controlled shock over the heart to regularize his/her heart rate. Dr Contractor says , 'All procedures must be strictly monitored by a trained professional, and should never be tried without supervision'.

The rate control method employs medication to slow the heart rate of a person. In most cases these medications also help to control irregular heart beats.

Lastly, remember that prevention is always better than cure, so get some exercise, eat healthy and get regular check ups to stay in shape.

Source: * WHO

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