World Health Organization celebrates another milestone April seven

PAHO, Bridgetown, Barbados — Every year World Health Day is celebrated on April 7th to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization [WHO] on this day in 1948. Each year a theme is selected for this observance that highlights a priority public health concern across the world and this year’s theme is focused on hypertension.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, has been estimated by the World Health Organization to cause 7.5 million deaths worldwide, equivalent to 12.8% of all deaths recorded annually. Of serious concern is the fact that the prevalence of uncontrolled hypertension rose from 600 million persons in 1980 to nearly one billion in 2008. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. If left uncontrolled, it can also lead to blindness, irregularities of the heartbeat and heart failure. The risk of developing these complications is higher in the presence of other risk factors such as diabetes.

One out of every three adults suffers from high blood pressure and, unfortunately, one in every three adults with hypertension does not know that they have this condition. The proportion of persons affected increases with age, from 1 in 10 people in their 20s and 30s to 5 in 10 people in their 50s. In the WHO Region of the Americas, which includes the Caribbean, men have a higher prevalence of hypertension [39%] as compared to women [32%].

Fortunately, high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable. In some developed countries, prevention and treatment of this condition, together with other cardiovascular risk factors, has brought about a significant reduction in deaths due to heart disease.

While the ultimate goal of World Health Day 2013 is to reduce heart attacks and strokes, the specific objectives of this year’s campaign are:

• to raise awareness of the causes and consequences of high blood pressure;
• to provide information on how to prevent high blood pressure and its related complications;
• to encourage adults to check their blood pressure and to follow the advice of their health care professionals;
• to encourage self-care to prevent high blood pressure;
• to make blood pressure measurement accessible and affordable to all; and
• to convince national and local authorities to create enabling environments for healthy behaviours.

The risk of developing high blood pressure can be reduced by:

• reducing salt intake;
• eating a balanced diet;
• avoiding the harmful use of alcohol;
• exercising regularly;
• maintaining a healthy body weight; and
• avoiding tobacco use.

PAHO encourages you to Know Your Numbers and to discuss prevention and treatment with your health care provider.

28 MARCH, 2013

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