April 16, 2013

Hypertension – get checked, change lifestyle

Tue Apr 16, 2013

Over the last two weeks or so, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, in their public education programmes, has been focusing on non communicable diseases, particularly hypertension.

This focus on hypertension was in keeping with the theme which was highlighted for World Health Day 2013, which was commemorated on April 7.{{more}}

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, has been estimated by the World Health Organization to cause 7.5 million deaths worldwide, equivalent to 12.8 per cent of all deaths recorded annually.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said of serious concern is the fact that the prevalence of uncontrolled hypertension rose from 600 million persons in 1980 to nearly one billion in 2008. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. If left uncontrolled, it can also lead to blindness, irregularities of the heartbeat and heart failure. The risk of developing these complications is higher in the presence of other risk factors, such as diabetes.

The dangerous thing about hypertension is that very often people affected by the condition do not know they have it, as it is very often symptomless. PAHO statistics indicate that one out of every three adults suffers from high blood pressure and, unfortunately, one in every three adults with hypertension does not know that he/she has this condition.

The proportion of persons affected increases with age, from one in 10 people in their 20s and 30s to five in 10 people in their 50s. In the WHO Region of the Americas, which includes the Caribbean, men have a higher prevalence of hypertension (39 per cent) as compared to women (32 per cent).

Many of the foods popular in the Caribbean are high in sodium, and put our people at an increased risk for hypertension. Fortunately though, there are also many other foods widely available in the region which are useful in the prevention and treatment of the condition. Unfortunately, most people do not pay attention to what foods and life styles put them at higher risk for non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, until they are already afflicted.

The good news is that high blood pressure can be prevented and treated. SEARCHLIGHT joins with the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and the MInistry of Health, Wellness and the Environment in encouraging Vincentians to have their blood pressure checked and to discuss prevention and treatment with your health care provider.