• Celebrated every year on May 17 since 2005, the World Hypertension Day is aimed at promoting public awareness of hypertension and to encourage citizens of all countries to prevent and control this silent killer.

    Gone are the days when our grandfathers walked long distances to and from work. They engaged in active work in the fields all day long. Our grandmothers toiled at home managing the household chores and taking care of the children. The young ones on the hand had friends with whom they climbed trees and played in dirty playgrounds, and when they hit the bed later in the evening, they were worked out. They also ate fresh foods free of pesticides.

    But not today. People, in search of comfort and embracing modern lifestyles, including but not limited to utilizing technologies to ease work, have become more sedentary. They own cars and drive to and from work. They have bought flashy gadgets for their children to sit glued in front of machines to play, not to forget the adoption of unhealthy eating habits.

    It is not just technological advancements that affect humankind today. Stressful workplaces are also taking a toll on people leaving them vulnerable to diabetes, cardiac arrest, courtesy hypertension! - the modern epidemic.

    Thus, May 17 is a reminder to all people to put efforts in ensuring that they remain healthy by remaining active despite life progress. It is a call to action to those suffering high levels of stress at work.

    AstraZeneca is one organization working to ensure that it tackles the burden of hypertension and reducing cardiovascular-related deaths. The organization hopes to reach 10 million patients across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

    With its Healthy Heart Africa program, AstraZeneca and its partners acknowledged that since the launch of the program, there has been an increase in screening centers and affordable treatments across Kenya, and the company is determined to expand the program beyond borders.

    “The prevalence of hypertension in Africa is the highest in the world, yet it is preventable, relatively easy to diagnose and treatable,” said Tarek Rabah, Area Vice President, AstraZeneca Middle East, and Africa. “With Healthy Heart Africa, we aim to strengthen healthcare capabilities to provide life-long care for patients living with hypertension. Through our unwavering efforts with our partners to improve education, raise awareness and increase access, we are confident that we have the right model to address the world’s largest silent killer.”

    This year’s theme is "Know Your Numbers", with a goal of increasing high blood pressure (BP) awareness in all populations around the world.

    Take charge of your life

    Hypertension which is also known as high or raised blood pressure is a silent killer and manifests quietly and wreaks much havoc undetected. Reports hold that the number of hypertensive adults will increase from 972 million in 2000 to 1.56 billion in 2025. This will be an equivalent of 60 percent increase of which 10 percent of the population suffers secondary hypertension due to pre-existing disease.

    To keep the disease at bay, people are advised to keep tabs on numbers. Normal blood pressure is defined as an average reading no higher than 120/80 mm Hg. When the blood pressure goes higher than this, such as 140/90 or higher, it is considered as high blood pressure. While the readings between normal and high blood pressure is considered ‘pre—hypertension’ it does not have any clear symptoms.

    Severe hypertension shows signs of headaches, sleepiness, palpitation, blurred vision, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, ringing sensation in the ears, breathing difficulty and irregular heartbeat which may even lead to coma. The pressure in the blood vessels can also cause blood to leak out into the brain, leading to stroke. Hypertension can also lead to kidney failure, rupture of blood vessels and cognitive impairment.

    High consumption of salty and fatty foods and inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables, harmful levels of alcohol, physical inactivity, and poor stress management can cause blood pressure.

    Early detection of hypertension can minimize the risk of heart attack and other associated diseases. Thus, it is advisable to have blood pressure measurements taken once in a while. Such measures will advise one on what changes they need to make in order to remain healthy. The remedy for hypertension could mean a change of diet and exercising, but to others, it could mean prescription medication to manage the pressure.

    Image credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson