Dubai: High blood pressure or hypertension, which has no initial symptoms, can cause irregularities of the heartbeat and heart failure, if left uncontrolled, cautioned doctors on World Health Day on Sunday.
The observance this year marks the 65th anniversary of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has selected hypertension as the day’s theme. Hypertension is the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke and a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. It requires lifetime management, medication adherence and lifestyle modification.
Globally, prevalence of hypertension is at 40 per cent with one in three adults suffering from high blood pressure, according to the WHO. Available 2012 statistics from the study conducted by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Statistics Centre, state that one in 15 people in Dubai is diagnosed with hypertension.
Doctors estimate that 40 per cent of the people in the region are unaware that they have hypertension.
To highlight the public health concern, doctors spoke to Gulf News on prevention and management strategies.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Ahmad Gabroun, specialist cardiologist at Canadian Specialist Hospital, Dubai, said that hypertension is the single biggest risk factor for death worldwide causing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. “Uncontrolled and prolonged elevation of blood pressure can lead to various forms of cardiovascular diseases, hence effective management and control of hypertension is essential. High blood pressure can also cause blindness,” he said.
Dr Gabroun estimated that 40 per cent of the people in the region are not aware that they are hypertensive. He said that there is an urgent need of awareness, and that people aged 30-40 years should check their blood pressure at least once a year, and those above 40, every six months.
Of the causes, he said that obesity and sedentary lifestyle are the main contributors to hypertension. “Lack of adequate physical activity, unhealthy food choices, high sodium intake, stress, smoking and alcohol intake are other causes,” he said.
For those who are diagnosed with hypertension, regular monitoring is key, he added. “One should regularly monitor blood pressure at home as well as maintain a record of readings.”
To keep hypertension under control, lifestyle changes are key. “These include healthy balanced diet, low-sodium diet, exercise, smoking cessation, avoiding alcohol, and maintaining a healthy body weight,” said Dr Hanan Obaid, head of Community Health Services Programme at the DHA. Dr Mohammad Shakeel, specialist physician at Aster Medical Centre, Dubai, said, “The risk of developing complications relating to hypertension is higher if the person has diabetes. The two risk factors — hypertension and diabetes — increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and nephropathy [disease of the kidney].”
In support of the day, several medical establishments are running awareness and screening campaigns. The DM Healthcare group in association with UAE Ministry of Health (MOH) started on Sunday a week-long health awareness drive across the UAE to mark World Health Day. The campaign will be carried out through Dr. ASTER Mobile, a mobile clinic, which will visit all the emirates to provide free health checks and address various health issues.