Know your number, control blood pressure

Hypertension (known as high blood pressure) affects one in three adults worldwide. But it is largely hidden. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it does not always cause symptoms. As a result, it leads to more than nine million deaths every year due to heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

In an effort to raise awareness of the silent epidemic and promote behavioural change with respect to primary prevention, improve the chances of early detection and promote effective management for patients, World Health Day will be observed tomorrow under the theme Hypertension.

As the world's population ages and grows, unhealthy behaviours - an unbalanced diet, a lack of physical activity, smoking, harmful use of alcohol - together with stressful lifestyles, all increase the chances of developing high blood pressure.

Apart from stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure can also cause blindness, irregularities of the heartbeat and heart failure if left uncontrolled.

Behind the statistics is a silent killer that can affect anyone; people often have no symptoms, and many are not even aware of their high blood pressure and the associated health risks. The result is that many go undiagnosed. Many who are diagnosed do not have access to treatment or their conditions are poorly controlled. Self-care - meaning actions or behaviours each person can take in his or her daily life - also plays an important role.

However, high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable. In some developed countries, prevention and treatment of the condition, together with other cardiovascular risk factors, has brought about a reduction in deaths from heart disease. The risk of developing high blood pressure can be reduced by the following measures:

  • Eat a healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, high fibre and low fat.
  • Limit intake of Sodium by reducing the amount of salt added to food. The total daily intake of salt (sodium chloride) from all sources should be no more than 5 grams per day (1 teaspoon).
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can raise blood pressure.
  • Be physically active. Physical activity can help lower blood pressure. Adults should engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Do not use tobacco.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly.
  • Treat high blood pressure with the target to keep it under 140/80 mmHg.
  • Prevent and manage other medical conditions such as diabetes.
  • Reduce and manage mental stress through yoga, meditation and other relaxing techniques.

Source: World Health Organisation