I am in my 20s and a student at university. I recently visited a hospital because I had flu but was told my blood pressure was high. Could this have been due to the flu? I thought high blood pressure was a disease of the elderly. Please help!
High blood pressure is indeed a disease of the elderly. However, due to stress and other modern life factors, prevalence is being documented in people as young as 20 years or so. One may have occasional rise of blood pressure due to stress, as may be due to flu in your case. But this would happen only due to susceptibility to hypertension due to other risk factors. Stress, lack of physical activity, obesity, high fat diet, high level of lipids in blood, use of alcohol, tobacco, are some of the risk factors of hypertension. There is also a strong hereditary factor. A young adult can have hypertension due to kidney diseases or endocrine diseases like those of adrenal glands, thyroid, etc. Frequent use of drugs like corticoids, anti cold drugs also increases vulnerability to hypertension.
Diagnosis of hypertension is established simply by measuring the blood pressure by a digital or electronic sphygmomanometer. The person should be relaxed and wearing clothes with loose sleeves around arm when measurement is done.
Whatever the reason, hypertension can be prevented by taking balanced, low fat diet, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, avoiding stress and regular physical exercise. It is advisable to do tests for thyroid and adrenal function to diagnose an underlying curable cause for hypertension. Check up of blood pressure after 4 to 6 weeks intervals is advisable. If it is still high, suitable measures can be adopted.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital