Contrary to the popular notion that hypertension is less common in rural areas and is more of an urban malaise, a study has suggested that the lifestyle disease, described as a 'silent killer', could be on the rise in rural population, requiring an enhanced screening.

A community-based cross-sectional study conducted in five villages in Kamshet, near Pune, showed raised Blood Pressure (BP) readings in individuals over 30 years of age, exposed to tobacco and alcohol use, excessive salt consumption and undesirable dietary and physical activity pattern.

"Our findings suggest that high risk screening programmes are essential for identification of individuals above 30 years of age with raised BP (defined as systolic BP equal or more than 140 or diastolic BP equal to or more than 90) as they are at an increased risk of developing hypertension.

"Early identification measures are necessary to prevent the modern epidemic of hypertension which is plaguing even rural areas now," according to thesis submitted by Sofiya Ahmed from Savitribai Phule Pune University as part of the postgraduate studies in Health Science.

"The add-on salt consumption, the main contributing factor to developing high BP, was measured by calculating total purchase of the commodity per month, divided by number of family members, deducting to an average consumption per individual per day. This was found to be higher than recommended amount of 5 gram per day," Ahmed said.

The researcher partnered with Dr Amit Mishra in carrying out the survey on 226 persons. Raised BP was found in 66 subjects with 49.2 per cent men and 21.1 per cent of the women affected.

The findings stated, "High prevalence of consumption of smokeless tobacco was also found which calls for tobacco control measures within the community, though this association needs to be confirmed by conducting larger cohort studies."

"Almost half of the respondents in the study had never checked their BP which indicates a lack of awareness among the population. Among the informed hypertensives, treatment was preferred from private practitioners. This shows that public healthcare system needs to improve the level of awareness," it said.

Data was collected on tobacco and alcohol use, dietary and physical activity patterns, socio-economic status, salt consumption, household biomass fuel and family history.

The study advocates undertaking awareness campaigns regarding risk factors associated with hypertension through to encourage people to opt for healthy lifestyles.

It also underlined the need for further research with a large sample size to confirm the findings at Kamshet.


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