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The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) says that at least one in three adults in the Americas, including the Caribbean, has high blood pressure, or hypertension.
PAHO, an arm of the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that hypertension is the number-one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and death throughout the world. Hypertension is believed to affect nearly 1 billion people worldwide.
PAHO/WHO has called on health providers to carry out blood pressure checks at every opportunity especially in primary health care settings.
High blood pressure, equal to or above 140/90 mmHg, increases one’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. According to PAHO, studies show that high blood pressure contributes to nearly 9.4 million cardiovascular deaths each year around the world.
In the Americas, cardiovascular disease claims 1.9 million lives each year and is the main cause of death in most of the region’s countries.
“Making sure people know their numbers is a personal responsibility, but it’s also a professional responsibility for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers,” said PAHO Dominican-born director Dr. Carissa Etienne.
“The good news is that hypertension is both preventable and treatable,” she added. “In some countries, prevention and treatment of high blood pressure and other risk factors have significantly reduced deaths from heart attack and stroke.”
Etienne said although high blood pressure affects about 30 percent of the adult population, a third of them do not know they have the condition as the disease often has no symptoms.Last year, health authorities from throughout the Americas approved a strategy for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases that has the goal of reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases by 25 percent by the year 2025.
Reaching this goal would save an estimated 3 million lives in the hemisphere, PAHO said.
In signing onto the strategy, PAHO member countries pledged to prioritize non-communicable diseases in their health and development policies, promote multi-sector dialogue and partnerships, and strengthen measures to reduce risk factors and improve health care coverage.