CARPHA reminds the region to ‘check your numbers’ as it  observes World Hypertension Day
May 19, 2023
CARPHA reminds the region to ‘check your numbers’ as it observes World Hypertension Day

May 17 is observed globally as World Hypertension Day in order to raise awareness and promote hypertension prevention, detection and control. This year’s theme was “Measure your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control it, Live Longer”.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in a release in observation of the day has issued an appeal to residents in the countries and territories it serves to take the necessary steps to control their blood pressure.

“Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the number one risk factor for illness and premature death from cardiovascular disease, and one of the most common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Caribbean region,” the release states.

“This disease may go undetected, thus getting your blood pressure checked frequently is especially important, so that timely treatment including lifestyle changes and/or medication can be started to reduce progression to complications,” remarked Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of CARPHA in observance of World Hypertension Day.

The non-Latin Caribbean has the greatest mortality rate from cardiovascular disease (418 per 100,000 inhabitants).

A study that examined 10-year mortality trends in 20 English and Dutch speaking Caribbean countries/territories, discovered that cardiovascular disease accounted for most deaths (13-25%), with Montserrat, Bermuda and Trinidad and Tobago having the highest percentages.

In the adult population aged 30-79, the regional age-standardized prevalence of hypertension was 35.4% in 2019. It was more substantial in men (37.6%) compared to women (33.3%). Furthermore, the top 20% of countries in the world with the highest prevalence included countries in the Caribbean with Dominica (47.7%) having the highest prevalence and Belize with the lowest prevalence (38%) (Pan American Health Organization, 2021).

Uncontrolled blood pressure can cause serious health problems such as heart failure, stroke, damage to the kidneys and the back of the eye. Although blood pressure usually increases with age, hypertension is preventable and treatable. According to the World Health Organization, although hypertension is an easy condition to diagnose and treat, globally about 46% of adults remain unaware that they have this condition.

The risk factors contributing to hypertension are similar to those of other major chronic NCDs such as cancer and diabetes. Behavioural and lifestyle-related factors – eating too much salt, being overweight and not getting enough exercise, excessive use of alcohol and smoking of tobacco – can put people at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure.

“While there is no cure for hypertension, making lifestyle changes can greatly enhance your quality of life and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke,” stated Dr. Heather Armstrong, Head of Chronic Disease, and Injury at CARPHA. She stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle at all ages.

“That means reducing your salt intake, eating a healthier diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting enough exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight for your height and age, and avoid the harmful use of alcohol.”

When your blood pressure is too high for too long, it damages your blood vessels. A big part of preventing stroke and heart disease is simply being aware of your blood pressure – know your numbers. Check your blood pressure numbers regularly to be assured of good health. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, staying on the treatment prescribed by your doctor or health provider is essential, especially if you have other risks like diabetes, high cholesterol, or are a cigarette/tobacco user.

Hypertension, if not adequately managed, can have significant negative economic and social impact on the individual, the population, and the country. Combined and coordinated efforts at local, national, regional, and global levels are needed to increase awareness of the dangers of high blood pressure and address the risk factors associated with this silent killer.

In the region, Caribbean governments and other stakeholders are working towards achieving a 25% decline in the prevalence of hypertension by 2025 and premature mortality by a third by 2030.

Through combined and coordinated efforts, CARPHA is committed to continuing its work to increase awareness of the dangers of high blood pressure and to address the risk factors associated with the disease.

CARPHA is encouraging people to quit the use of all tobacco-based products, avoid the harmful use of alcohol, get more exercise, and walk regularly, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut back on salty, sugary, and fatty foods, maintain a healthy weight, and minimize stress to lower your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you are a person living with hypertension (PLWH) and taking your medication, alert your health care provider of any changes from your baseline. By engaging in these practices, even if you have hypertension, it is possible to get it under control with lifestyle changes and the aid of medicines.