World Health Day is celebrated on the 7th of April to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948. This year the organization has chosen to celebrate its 65th anniversary by raising awareness worldwide of the health impacts of high blood pressure (hypertension).
Currently one in four adults worldwide is suffering from high blood pressure and many have no symptoms of their illness at all. Sadly, the numbers are not expected to improve; it is estimated there will be a staggering 1.56 billion adults living with high blood pressure by 2025 (WHO).
High blood pressure is often perceived as a problem exclusive to wealthier nations but that is no longer the case; a recent study concluded that more than 80 percent of high blood pressure disease occurs in the developing world. For example, age-specific stroke rates are up to six-times higher in Tanzania than in the United Kingdom (Reuters).
But the threat is still serious in the developed world; while some statistics are showing a decrease in hypertension in general populations, the disease is being seen more often, and more severely, in younger people. One recent study estimated that one in five people in the UK between the ages of 16-34 are suffering from high blood pressure, with more than 18% of those being at immediate risk of a catastrophic health event.
The potential damage to a person’s health from living long-term with hypertension is significant. The possible health implications that can manifest from living with untreated high blood pressure are: heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness or severe and potentially fatal damage to the body’s main arterial system.
The good news is that hypertension is a disease that is easily controlled, and potentially cured, by not smoking, limiting salt, fat and caffeine intake; losing weight, reducing stress levels and ensuring your pressure is checked regularly.