World Hypertension Day: May 17th

worldhypertensionday2013

Globally, 9.4 million die every year and 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer because of high blood pressure or hypertension. It is the biggest single risk factor for death world wide causing heart disease, stroke and kidney disease and diabetes.

What Is World Hypertension Day?

World Hypertension Day has been established to highlight the preventable stroke, heart and kidney diseases caused by high blood pressure and to communicate to the public information on prevention, detection and treatment. Each year, May 17th is designated World Hypertension Day.

This year, the theme for World Hypertension Day 2013 is “Healthy Heart Beat – Healthy Blood Pressure”. Considering the fact that atrial fibrillation – arrhythmias is very common in people with hypertension, especially among older patients, the WHL executive board felt that it is important to improve the public awareness about atrial fibrillation – arrhythmias. In order to make it easier for the public to understand they have used the simple terminology – Heart Beat.

 This is what Dr. Norm Campbell, President Elect of the World Hypertension League and Canadian Hypertension Chair has to say about this very important day:

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that increased blood pressure (BP) was the leading risk for death and disability with over 9 million deaths per year and 7 percent of global disability attributed to increased BP. The chronic diseases caused by hypertension and other health risks have been predicted to be major risks to the world economy as well as to national health sys- tems. However, the real toll needs to be considered the individuals with increased BP who develop preventable deaths and disability and their families who lose loved ones and finan- cial stability or are required to provide ongoing care for those chronically disabled. Few in any society worldwide have not been impacted by the consequences of hypertension.

Fortunately, the last few years have been marked by at least talk of a global response to reduce the impact of hypertension. A United Nations special high level meeting dedicated to Chronic Non- communicable Disease (NCD) has in draft 9 crit- ical global targets, four of which directly relate to hypertension. One recommendation for nations is to reduce the prevalence of hypertension by 25 percent and if they cannot do at least contain the prevalence. Another critical recommendation is to reduce dietary salt intake by 30 percent. The WHO has also indicated reducing dietary salt is one of a few „best buys‟ for improving health and reiterated its recommendations for individuals to reduce their intake to less than 5 g/day (with low- er levels in children based on their lower caloric requirements). Two other recommendations ad- dress the need for essential medications to be available and affordable to treat NCDs.

It is important that non-government organizations and especially those dedicated to hypertension al- so make plans to respond in systematic manner. To effectively impact hypertension control, na- tional hypertension organizations need to build partnerships with the organizations that represent the health care workers who assess BP, initiate and monitor treatment. These partnerships can be used to develop education programs and re- sources that promote enhanced and optimized hypertension practices based on the needs and wants of health care workers. For too long, inter- ventions have been developed based on highly specialized detailed advice that is often not app- licable in the environments of the primary health care workers. Not often enough is attention fo- cused on the fundamental tasks that are critical to reduce the burden of hypertension. Such tasks in- clude measuring BP as a routine practice at all adults every visit, assessing for diabetes and dys- lipidemia in those with hypertension, providing written advice on why control of hypertension is important combined with information on lifestyle and drug treatments, and prescribing antihyper- tensive drugs in combinations to achieve BP targets. Building partnerships with the training schools for health care workers can ensure opti- mum practice interventions start during training.

National hypertension organizations can allocate resources to build capacity within their countries for prevention and control of hypertension. While all are resource poor, national meeting agendas can focus on developing and fostering interventions for prevention and control. Such in- terventions could include ensuring there are valid hypertension guidelines adapted to the national circumstances, training programs to guide health care workers in optimum management of hyper- tension, and to run community based hypertension control programs. National organizations can also play important roles in support- ing international recommendations and advocating for national dietary salt reduction programs by educating policy makers, other health care professionals and the public.

The World Hypertension League is assessing the needs of national hypertension organizations and will work with national organizations to share best practices globally and to adopt currently available resources to aid prevention and control of hypertension.

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