May 17 Marks World Hypertension DayBy Rodrigo Brugada | Mon, 05/17/2021 - 16:11
May 17 marks the World Hypertension Day, meant to increase awareness for this chronic disease and increase preventive practices among the general population. Mexico has almost 30 million people living with this condition, which places them at higher risk of facing further cardiovascular diseases.
Systemic arterial hypertension is a chronic condition characterized by persistent high blood pressure in the arteries. Most affected individuals have what is called primary hypertension, which means that there is no underlying cause increasing this pressure, and it is mainly caused by multifactorial gene-environment interactions. According to PAHO, approximately 30 percent of the world’s adult population is estimated to have hypertension. In Mexico, this figure stands at around 25 percent, which means that almost 30 million people live with this condition, according to INSP.
Having non-optimal blood pressure is the most significant single risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. It is also the most important factor contributing to the global burden of disease, which refers to the worldwide impact of a health problem as measured by financial cost, mortality, disability and lost quality of life, among other factors. Hypertension leads yearly to approximately 9.4 million deaths and 212 million lost healthy life years, as explored by Nature.
The association between elevated blood pressure and the risk for developing more serious cardiovascular diseases highlights the importance of prevention. Some of the risk factors for developing hypertension include sedentarism, eating an unhealthy diet, obesity, not sleeping enough, high-stress levels, smoking and increased alcohol consumption. As such, the main preventive measures include modifying these risk factors, as stated by the CDC. The same lifestyle changes recommended for the prevention of hypertension are effective as management of the condition and are recommended for all individuals with hypertension. In patients whose blood pressure cannot be controlled with lifestyle changes alone, there is a wide array of safe and effective antihypertensive drugs available for treatment.
The importance of prevention is increased in the context of COVID-19, as hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular diseases are some of the main risk factors for developing a more severe form of the disease and are also associated with an increased mortality rate, as explained by Mayo Clinic. Moreover, just as COVID-19 affected vulnerable populations disproportionately, hypertension and its possible unfavorable outcomes are also unequally distributed.
While individual risk factor modification is fundamental for prevention, collective action is necessary for adequate health promotion. There are still significant hurdles towards a healthier life in the form of socioeconomic inequalities, gaps in access to care, lack of access to healthy environments and a lack of healthy social dynamics such as adequate work-life balance or improved education levels. These inequalities remain a vital opportunity area for health policies to create a better, more sustainable and healthier society.