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. While high blood pressure does not cause symptoms in most cases, it can affect your important organs like your heart and kidneys and puts a person at high risk for serious long-term health problems and death, if left uncontrolled.
“This disease can cause serious health problems such as heart failure, stroke and kidney damage. Although blood pressure usually rises with age, hypertension disease is preventable and treatable. This disease may go undetected, so getting your blood pressure checked frequently is very important, so that timely treatment including lifestyle changes and/or medication can be started to reduce progress to complications” remarked Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg, Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), in observance of World Hypertension Day 2019.
The risk factors which contribute to hypertension are similar to those of other major chronic NCDs such as obesity and diabetes. Behavioral 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. Glennis Andall-Brereton, Epidemiologist/Senior Technical Officer, Non-Communicable Diseases at CARPHA. She stressed the need to maintain 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 drinking too much 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, it is important to stay on the treatment prescribed by your doctor or health provider, especially if you have other risks like diabetes, high cholesterol, or are a smoker.
World Hypertension Day is observed every May 17th in order to raise awareness and promote hypertension detection and to encourage citizens of all countries to prevent and control this silent killer, a modern epidemic. “Know your numbers” is the theme for this year’s World Hypertension Day.
Hypertension if not adequately managed, can have significant negative economic and social impact on 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.
CARPHA calls on governments, civil society groups, regional organisations, and communities to work collectively to inform, educate and motivate the people of our Region to improve care and treatment outcomes for diabetics and hypertensive and reduce disease complications.