May 19th 2021

World Hypertension Day: May 2021

17 May 2021 marks World Hypertension Day and seeks to draw attention to what is known as the ‘silent killer’. The initiative, led by the World Hypertension League (WHL) (part of the International Society of Hypertension (ISH)) is a global campaign that seeks to inform and educate the public about the disease.

In today’s blog we highlight the symptoms of the disease and what you can do to raise awareness on World Hypertension Day.

Established in May 2005, World Hypertension Day aims to promote public awareness of hypertension and to encourage citizens of all countries to prevent and control this silent killer, the modern epidemic. The theme for World Hypertension Day is ‘Know Your Numbers’, with a goal of to increase awareness of increasing high blood pressure (BP) in all populations around the world.

Hypertension is very common indeed and hence a major public health issue. The prevalence is expected to increase considerably in the coming years. In 2000, the estimated number of adults living with high blood pressure globally was 972 million. This is expected to increase to 1.56 billion by 2025!

Lifestyle factors, such as physical inactivity, a salt-rich diet with high processed and fatty foods, and alcohol and tobacco use, are reasons for this increased disease burden, which is spreading at an alarming rate from developed countries to emerging economies, such as India, China and African countries.

Adequate treatment of high blood pressure lowers this cardiovascular risk towards normal levels. However, the biggest problem for controlling hypertension is compliance with treatment.

Despite very effective and cost-effective treatments, target blood pressure levels are very rarely reached, even in countries where cost of medication is not an issue. Sadly, many patients still believe that hypertension is a disease that can be ‘cured’, and they stop or reduce medication when their blood pressure levels fall to normal levels. Despite the availability of effective and safe antihypertensive drugs, hypertension and its related risk factors (obesity, high blood lipids, and diabetes mellitus) remain uncontrolled in many patients. One often talks about ‘the rule of the halves’:

The members of the ISH, founded some 50 years ago, have worked hard to improve these sad results, and there has been some progress. However, physicians and practitioners worldwide need to convey the message better to the public that high blood pressure is the first sign that many organs in the body are under attack.

Control of high blood pressure in the population is very important indeed and the benefit for the public is very large! Lifestyle changes that individuals can make for themselves to improve their blood pressure include:

  • Losing weight if they are overweight
  • Eating more polyunsaturated fat
  • Reducing the salt content of their diet
  • Taking regular exercise
  • Making sure that they are sensible about their alcohol intake

Untreated high blood pressure can also affect your eyesight and lead to eye disease. Hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images focus. This eye disease is known as hypertensive retinopathy.

The OCCS is proud to support the initiative. For more information on the disease, please visit the British and Irish Hypertension Society

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