World Hypertension Day is observed on May 17 every year to spread awareness about the disease that the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls a “silent killer” and “global public health issue.” The theme of this year’s World Hypertension Day is Know Your Numbers. It aims to increase high blood pressure (BP) awareness in all populations around the world, according to the World Hypertension League. According to the WHO, hypertension is the “most important preventable cause of heart disease and stroke worldwide.” The Southern African Hypertension Society says four out of ten adults worldwide have high blood pressure and only 50% are aware of it.
High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure equal to or above 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure equal to or above 90 mm Hg. The global health body says that, if left uncontrolled, hypertension or high blood pressure can “lead to a heart attack, an enlargement of the heart and eventually heart failure.”
How to keep your blood pressure under check
As the theme of this year’s World Hypertension Day suggests, it is important to “know your numbers.” Basically, keep getting your blood pressure checked, routinely. Having a healthy lifestyle is also important for keeping your blood pressure under check
The WHO recommends these five “concrete steps to minimize the odds of developing high blood pressure and its adverse consequences.”
Healthy diet: Promoting a healthy lifestyle with emphasis on proper nutrition for infants and young people; reducing salt intake to less than 5 g of salt per day (just under a teaspoon); eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day; reducing saturated and total fat intake.
Avoid alcohol: The WHO recommends limiting alcohol intake to “no more than one standard drink a day.”
Physical activity: Regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day) and maintaining a normal weight can also help. The WHO says that every 5 kg of excess weight lost can “reduce systolic blood pressure by 2 to 10 points.”
Say no to tobacco: Stop using tobacco products as they increase the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease by constricting blood vessels and decreasing oxygen supply to the heart.
Manage stress: It is also important for hypertension patients to manage stress in healthy ways “such as through meditation, appropriate physical exercise, and positive social contact.”