Hypertension is diagnosed if readings on separate occasions consistently show blood pressure to be 140/90 mmHg or higher. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. Uncontrolled hypertension can also cause blindness, irregular heartbeat and heart failure.
The risk of developing these complications is higher in the presence of other cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes. One in three adults worldwide has hypertension. The proportion increases with age, from 1 in 10 people in their 20s and 30s to 5 in 10 people in their 50s.
Nevertheless, hypertension is preventable and treatable. In some developed countries, the prevention and treatment of hypertension, together with other cardiovascular risk factors, have brought about a reduction in deaths from heart disease. The risk of developing hypertension can be reduced by:
- reducing salt intake
- eating a balanced diet
- avoiding the harmful use of alcohol
- taking regular physical activity
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- avoiding tobacco use.
The ultimate goal of the World Health Day 2013 campaign is to reduce heart attacks and strokes. The specific objectives of the campaign are:
- to raise awareness of the causes and consequences of raised blood pressure;
- to encourage people to change behaviours that can lead to hypertension;
- to persuade adults to have their blood pressure checked regularly;
- to increase the number of health facilities offering blood pressure checks; and
- to mobilize national and local authorities to create enabling environments conducive to healthy behaviours.