Take care of your heart

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2021

By Chris Quilpa

A joint press release by World Health Organization and Imperial College London published in The Lancet on Aug. 25 reported that the number of people aged 30-79 with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has doubled from 650 million to 1.28 billion in the past 30 years.

This is due to population growth and aging, according to the study conducted by a team of physicians and researchers led by Professor Majid Ezzati, senior author of the study and professor of global environmental health at the School of Public Health, Imperial College London.

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“Nearly half a century after we started treating hypertension, which is easy to diagnose and treat with low-cost medicines, it is a public health failure that so many of the people with high blood pressure in the world are still not getting treatment they need,” he said.

A total of 720 million people (53% of women and 62% of men) were not receiving treatment they needed.

Of the 1.28 billion cases, about 580 million of them (41% of women and 51% of men) were not aware they were hypertensive or were never diagnosed, according to the study.

Countries with the highest hypertension rates, in 2019, were Paraguay, Dominican Republic and Jamaica for women, and Paraguay, Hungary and Poland for men. Meanwhile, Switzerland, Peru and Canada ranked among the lowest prevalence of hypertension.

The United States ranked fourth in the highest hypertension treatment rate for women (73%) and men (66%) in 2019, with the Republic of Korea ranked first for women (77%) and Canada for men with 76%.

According to WHO, modifiable risk factors for hypertension include an unhealthy diet with excessive salt intake, high saturated fat and trans fats, and low intake of fruits and vegetables; physical inactivity; consumption of tobacco and alcohol; and being overweight or obese.

Non-modifiable risk factors include family and relatives who have high blood pressure or heart disease; age; and existing medical conditions like diabetes or kidney disease.

Since hypertension is labeled a “silent killer,” people may be unaware they have high or elevated blood pressure, for it may not have any warning signs or symptoms. That is why blood pressure has to be checked regularly.

Among the symptoms of hypertension, when they occur, are early morning headaches; nosebleeds; irregular heart rhythms; vision changes; and buzzing in the ears. Severe hypertension can cause fatigue or feeling tired; nausea; vomiting; confusion; anxiety; chest pain or angina; muscle tremors; irregular heart beat; heart attack; and heart failure.

The only way to detect hypertension, according to WHO, is to have blood pressure checked or measured by a doctor or healthcare professionals.

To avoid the complications of high blood pressure, change your lifestyle. Corrective and preventive measures include reducing your weight, restricting your salt intake, moderating alcohol use, exercising regularly, and smoking cessation.

The above changes can lower blood pressure enough to make additional treatment unnecessary. Even when medications are required, smaller doses may be sufficient in addition to changes with your diet, exercise and lifestyle.

To keep blood pressure under control and have a healthy heart is a lifetime commitment. If you have questions or concerns about your health, visit or consult your physician or healthcare provider.

If you want to have a healthy life and live longer, take care of your heart.

 

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Portsmouth. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.