Today, May 17, is World Hypertension Day. Dr Steven Nissen, M.D., Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, says, blood pressure screening should be part of routine health checks available to everyone, to reduce the burden of disease on individuals and communities.
“We often say that knowing your numbers — a few basic measurements that can serve as indicators of heart health — is the key to prevention or early treatment for heart and vascular problems,” he says.
“That is particularly true for those who would not be able to access treatment for more serious heart disorders.”
Hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The top number 120 is the pressure at its maximum as the heart contracts (systolic pressure), and the bottom number is the minimum as the muscle releases (diastolic pressure). High blood pressure is greater than 130/90.
Dr Nissen says hypertension is a risk factor in several cardiovascular diseases, as well as stroke, chronic kidney disease and dementia. Yet despite its serious consequence, there are frequently no identifiable symptoms, which makes screening for hypertension essential. According to the International Society of Hypertension in the US, raised blood pressure is the most significant contributing risk factor for preventable deaths worldwide, costing an estimated 10 million lives each year. Yet only 46.5 percent of those people who have the condition know about it.
“Identifying hypertension can achieve real improvements in health, because it allows us to intervene before treatment becomes costly,” says Dr Nissen. “Knowing this number means we can take action to prevent more serious diseases from developing. In many cases, we can do this through lifestyle changes such as improvements in diet and exercise. Particularly for people with limited access to medical care, a blood pressure test can save a life.”—[email protected]