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It’s 7 April, which means it’s one of the big days on the World Health Organisation (WHO) calendar – it’s World Health Day.

The day marks the anniversary of the founding of the WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected to highlight an area of public concern in world health, and in 2013 the theme is high blood pressure or hypertension.

Internationally, high blood pressure is a major cause of death – it is a causative factor in heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. Left uncontrolled it can result in blindness. According to the WHO, one in three adults worldwide suffers from high blood pressure (ranging from about 10% in their 20’s to 50% and higher in their 50’s). While high blood pressure is definitely not a condition only affecting those in the developing world, its prevalence is highest in low-income countries in Africa, due mainly to inadequate diets.

While high blood pressure is a global problem, its prevalence is greatest in poor countries in Africa and other parts of the developing world.(© All Rights Reserved)

While high blood pressure is a global problem, its prevalence is greatest in poor countries in Africa and other parts of the developing world.
(© All Rights Reserved)

In developed, higher income communities, other factors influence high blood pressure – these include high salt intake, excessive alcohol use, obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking and stress.

The goal of World Health Day 2013 is a global reduction in heart attacks and strokes caused by high blood pressure. Specific objectives include:

  • Making available information and raising awareness of the causes and consequences of high blood pressure;
  • Encouraging adults to have their blood pressure checked regularly (part of this involves making blood pressure measurement more affordable to all); and
  • Inciting local and national authorities to create enabling, healthy environments, and to promote healthy behaviour among it’s people.

High blood pressure is a health danger that can affect us all, and it is something we can each address through healthy lifestyle choices. For more info, have a look at this Q&A on hypertension from the WHO. Let’s use World Health Day 2013 as the necessary kick in the backside to get each of us to opt for a healthier, more active lifestyle.

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