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World Health Day

People urged to get blood pressure checked on World Health Day

Every year, the World Health Organisation selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day. This year’s theme is high blood pressure.

TODAY MARKS THE 65th anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation and 2013′s World Health Day.

The goal this year is to reduce heart attacks and strokes by raising awareness of the causes and consequences of high blood pressure.

According to the WHO, hypertension is a global public health issue as latest figures show more than 40 per cent of adults over the age of 25 have raised blood pressure.

It contributes to the burden of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, as well as premature death and disability. And all regions of the world are affected.

Despite the huge repercussions (and nine million associated deaths), hypertension is both preventable and treatable.

Members of the public are being urged today to cut their risk of developing high blood pressure by cutting down on salt intake, eating a balanced diet, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, doing regular physical activity and stopping smoking.

As well as health costs, there is a social cost to the growing problem of high blood pressure. In some countries, money spent on cardiovascular diseases alone can be one fifth of the total health expenditure. Yet, millions of people forgo seeking care for high blood pressure in the early stages because they cannot afford it.

The WHO says the results are devastating for both families and health systems:  ”early death, disability, personal and household disruption, loss of income, a diminished workforce, and medical care expenditures take their toll on families, communities and national health budgets.”

A case study in Japan has looked at how community-based programmes, including regular health check-ups and targeted promotion campaigns, have contributed to a reduction in raised blood pressure and strokes.

Summer cooking schools and cooperation with restaurants have also been cited as successful elements of the campaign.

For much of the 20th century, strokes were the number one killer in Japan. But since 1960, when the Ministry of Health and Welfare began measuring the death rates for stroke, cancer and heart disease, the number of strokes has fallen by more than 85 per cent.

The large reduction of stroke contributed to an increase in the already high life expectancy in Japan. A baby girl born in Japan today can expect to live to 86 and a boy to nearly 80.

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