PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Wednesday hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the number one risk factor for illness and premature death from cardiovascular disease and one of the most common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Caribbean region.
“This disease may go undetected, thus getting your blood pressure checked frequently is especially important so that timely treatment, including lifestyle changes and medication, can be started to reduce progression to complications,” said CARPHA’s Dr. Joy St John in observance of World Hypertension Day.
World Hypertension Day is being observed this year under the theme “Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer,” with health officials saying the objective is to raise awareness, promote hypertension detection and encourage citizens of all countries to prevent and control this silent killer.
CARPHA said that the non-Latin Caribbean has the most significant mortality rate from cardiovascular disease, estimated at 418 per 100,000 inhabitants.
It said that a study that examined 10-year mortality trends in 20 English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries found that cardiovascular disease accounted for most deaths, estimated at between 13–25 percent, with Montserrat, Bermuda, and Trinidad and Tobago having the highest percentages.
In the adult population aged 30–79, the regional age-standardized prevalence of hypertension was 35.4 percent in 2019. It was more substantial in men (37.6 percent) than women (33.3 percent.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in 2021 noted that the top 20 percent of countries in the world with the highest prevalence included countries in the Caribbean, with Dominica (47.7 percent) having the highest plurality and Belize with the lowest majority (38 percent).
CARPHA said uncontrolled blood pressure can cause serious health problems such as heart failure, stroke, and damage to the kidneys and the back of the eye. Although blood pressure usually increases with age, hypertension is preventable and treatable.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), although hypertension is a manageable condition to diagnose and treat, globally, about 46 percent of adults remain unaware that they have this condition.
The risk factors contributing to hypertension are similar to those of other major chronic NCDs, such as cancer and diabetes.
Behavioral and lifestyle-related factors, such as overeating salt, being overweight and not getting enough exercise, excessive use of alcohol, and smoking tobacco, can put people at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure.
“While there is no cure for hypertension, making lifestyle changes can greatly enhance your quality of life and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Heather Armstrong, CARPHA’s head of Chronic Disease, and Injury, stressing the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle at all ages.
“That means reducing your salt intake, eating a healthier diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting enough exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight for your height and age, and avoiding the harmful use of alcohol.”
CARPHA said that when a person’s blood pressure is too high for too long, it damages blood vessels and that a big part of preventing stroke and heart disease is simply being aware of your blood pressure.
“Check your blood pressure numbers regularly to be assured of good health. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, staying on the treatment prescribed by your doctor or health provider is essential, especially if you have other risks like diabetes, high cholesterol, or are a cigarette/tobacco user.”
CARPHA warned that hypertension, if not adequately managed, can have significant negative economic and social impacts on the individual, the population, and the country.
“In the region, Caribbean governments and other stakeholders are working towards achieving a 25 percent decline in the prevalence of hypertension by 2025 and premature mortality by a third by 2030.”
CARPHA said through combined and coordinated efforts, it is committed to continuing its work to increase awareness of the dangers of high blood pressure and to address the risk factors associated with the disease.
CARPHA’s work in Integrated Disease Management includes the publication and implementation of clinical guidelines to support the diagnosis, management, and care of diabetes and hypertension. These disease conditions are major risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases.
The Trinidad-based regional health institution said with the support of the French Development Agency (L’Agence Française de Développement-AFD), it is spearheading the revision of a clinical guideline for the management of hypertension in primary care in the Caribbean.
Additionally, CARPHA has developed a Regional Framework for the Reduction of Sodium in Caribbean populations, a significant risk factor for hypertension, that aims to change the food environment, educate the people, strengthen system capacity, and assess progress (CESA).