WHD

17th May is World Hypertension Day, its purpose is to raise awareness of raised blood pressure and encourage people globally to prevent and control this ‘silent killer’.

The theme for 2015 is ‘Know your numbers’.

What is blood pressure?

Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in blood vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the vessel walls as the blood is pumped.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is also known as high or raised blood pressure (BP). The higher the pressure in the vessels, the harder the heart has to work to pump the blood round. If uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, enlarged heart, strokes, kidney and eye damage.

As Pakistanis we already have a much higher rate of heart disease, due to combination of genetic and environmental factors.

High BP is often called a ‘silent killer’ as it may show no symptoms at all, but may be damaging your internal organs. At other times you may get headaches, blurry vision, nose bleeds or fast heart rate with it.

High blood pressure can be caused by an unhealthy diet (excessive fats and salt intake), obesity, reduced exercise, alcohol, smoking and having a family history of it.

Hypertension is common and often needs medication to control it, as well as lifestyle changes.

There is a rule of halves which is often quoted. Only half of the patients with hypertension are diagnosed, only half are treated and only half of these have a controlled blood pressure.

How is blood pressure defined?

Blood pressure has a upper and lower level eg 120/80. The higher level is when the heart pumps (systolic pressure) and the lower level is when the heart relaxes (diasystolic pressure).

The method of taking a blood pressure is fairly simple and many people can be taught to check their own BP. It is best to discuss with your Doctor or nurse to see what numbers you should be aiming for.

Goals for World Hypertension Day

As many people as possible should get their blood pressure checked. If it is high then you may need to make some lifestyle changes eg. lose weight, exercise more, reduce fatty/salty diet, stop smoking/alcohol.

If your Doctor or nurse recommends medication, then usually that is for long term. Therefore don’t stop the treatment when the BP is controlled, you need to carry on with it. Every few months the Doctor or nurse will re-check your BP.

Figures from Pakistan show that high BP is common, 1 in 3 is affected over 45 years old and 1 in 2 over 65 years. Only 3% of patients on medication have a controlled BP.

Once BP is within a normal range, it will lead to reduced damage of your heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.

Key points

Get your BP checked.

If high then start lifestyle changes (as above).

If medication recommended, take it, don’t stop it!

Keep BP monitored and controlled over time.