UN stresses importance of leading healthy lifestyle to prevent hypertension

Hypertension: silent killer, global public health crisis. Credit: WHO

7 April 2013 – Leading a healthy lifestyle and being aware of our own blood pressure levels can help prevent hypertension, which affects about one billion people worldwide, the United Nations said today on the occasion of World Health Day.

“This year's World Health Day sounds the alarm about a silent global killer: raised blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day. “One in three adults worldwide has this condition. It is a major cause of death in rich and poorer countries alike.”

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 is most prevalent in Africa, where it affects up to 46 per cent of adults.

“Raised blood pressure, a main trigger for cardio vascular disease, all to often goes undiagnosed because symptoms are rare. The good news is that when it is detected early enough, relatively simple steps can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and strokes,” Mr. Ban said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) people can take simple measures to reduce the risk of hypertension such as consuming less salt, eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco use and avoiding harmful use of alcohol. These actions, along with the measurement of blood pressure, also save individuals and governments time and money.

“This is why the United Nations encourages all adults to have their blood pressure regularly checked at health care facilities,” Mr. Ban said. “Following a healthy lifestyle can add years to all our lives. The evidence is unequivocal.”

World Health Day is observed on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948 and each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of concern for the agency. This year's theme “Measure your blood pressure, reduce your risk” focuses on preventing hypertension in people over 25 years of age.

“Let us become aware of our own blood pressure level, and contribute to greater public awareness of the problem of hypertension,” Mr. Ban said.

WHO's campaign to encourage people to measure their blood pressure is a response to the UN Declaration on Non-communicable Diseases, which was adopted by Heads of State and Government in September 2011. The Declaration commits countries to make greater efforts to promote public awareness campaigns to further the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.


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