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Facts to know about hypertension

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against the walls of arteries. It is recorded as two numbers: The systolic pressure over the diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure as the heart beats, while diastolic pressure measures the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.

Normal blood pressure is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic—usually expressed as "120 over 80." However, normal for an individual varies with the height, weight, fitness level, age, and health of a person. Blood pressure is normally maintained within narrow limits, but it can drop during sleep or increase during exercise.

Hypertension (HTN), or high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood passing through blood vessels is above normal. The increase in pressure forces the blood to hit the blood vessel walls. HTN is called “the silent killer” because many people do not know they have the condition. Consistently, high blood pressure increases the risk for a stroke or a heart attack.

Premature death

A statement signed by Fadéla Chaib, WHO spokesperson/Communications officer, and copied to the Ghana News Agency, notes that hypertension is one of the most important contributors to heart disease and stroke – which together make up the world’s number one cause of premature death and disability.

It says researchers estimate that high blood pressure contributes to nearly 9.4 million deaths from cardiovascular disease each year.

The statement says it also increases the risk of conditions such as kidney failure and blindness; it, however, notes that detecting high blood pressure is the first step in preventing and controlling it.

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It says in 2012, at the WHO World Health Assembly, governments decided to adopt a global target of a 25 per cent reduction in premature death from non-communicable diseases by 2025. 

“Global leaders have agreed preventing and controlling high blood pressure is an important step to achieving this target,” the statement quoted Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health.

WHO’s campaign

The statement says WHO’s campaign to encourage people to measure their blood pressure is a response to the United Nations Political Declaration on Non-communicable Diseases, which was adopted by Heads of State and Government in September 2011.

It notes that the Declaration commits countries to make greater efforts to promote public awareness campaigns for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.