Hypertension is preventable and treatable
2 April 2013
The Director of Health, Dr Constance Chan, today (April 2) drew public attention to the fact that the prevalence of diagnosed hypertension in Hong Kong has been on the rise and that the health risks associated with high blood pressure can be reduced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having regular blood pressure checks.
The remarks were made at a press conference to launch an upcoming public education campaign on hypertension led by the Department of Health (DH) in collaboration with partners in the health-care sector. The campaign echoes “High Blood Pressure”, the theme of World Health Day 2013 chosen by the World Health Organization (WHO), with the aim of reducing heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Chan said that according to WHO, one in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure. Globally, hypertension is an important public health challenge because of its high prevalence.
“Locally, the Thematic Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department in the last five years revealed that the prevalence of diagnosed hypertension in Hong Kong has been on a rising trend from 9.3 per cent in 2008, to 10.3 per cent in 2009/10, and 11 per cent in 2011/12. However, many adults in Hong Kong actually do not realise that they have hypertension,” Dr Chan said.
“Hypertension is a silent killer. Uncontrolled or untreated hypertension can lead to serious or even fatal diseases, including coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, dementia, kidney failure, and retinal disease.”
Dr Chan said, “Hypertension does not usually give rise to symptoms. Many patients with hypertension may not be aware of their disease. Therefore, it is important to monitor blood pressure regularly for early detection of hypertension. Healthy adults aged 18 years or above should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years.
“Hypertension is preventable. The risk of developing high blood pressure can be reduced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as reducing salt (sodium) intake as part of a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining an optimal body weight, refraining from smoking and drinking,” Dr Chan added.
Blood pressure is presented as two numbers. The first number (systolic pressure) represents the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart contracts to pump blood, whereas the second or bottom number (diastolic pressure) represents the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. Ideally, a normal blood pressure level for a healthy adult is below 120 over 80 (120/80).
Also speaking at the press conference today, the President of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, Dr Donald Li, appealed to members of the public to partner with their family doctor for early detection and management of hypertension.
While dispelling myths about hypertension, Dr Li said, "It is not true that only overweight or anxious people get hypertension. The risk of having hypertension increases with age and people should watch their blood pressure by having regular blood pressure checks, keep a record of blood pressure readings over time and seek medical advice if in doubt."
Dr Li said that hypertension is a chronic disease which occurs when blood pressure is persistently elevated. It can be controlled with medication, but the objective of treatment is to prevent complications and not to seek a cure. Patients need to continue with the treatment and lifestyle modifications as advised by doctors and attend regular medical follow up.
Dr Li added that patients should not stop taking medicine or adjust their medications without consulting their doctors after their blood pressure returns to normal.
Turning to the prevention of high blood pressure by lowering dietary sodium intake, Consultant (Community Medicine) (Risk Assessment and Communication) of the Centre for Food Safety, Dr Ho Yuk-yin, advised the public to keep a check on salt (sodium) intake from a young age to prevent high blood pressure.
Dr Ho said, “Reducing dietary sodium intake has been recognised by WHO as one of the most effective ways to reduce high blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke. The WHO strongly recommends that people at or over the age of 16 should consume, from all sources, less than five grams (approximately one teaspoon) of salt per day. Children should consume less than the amount recommended for adults.”
Dr Ho appealed to the public to reduce salt (sodium) intake by using a holistic approach when dining out and cooking at home. He also urged food traders to provide more foods with lower sodium content.
Today's press conference unveiled the public education campaign on hypertension starting from April with the slogan "Is your blood pressure normal? - High blood pressure kills but it's preventable and treatable". The campaign will include a series of forums, seminars, workshops and community activities with the aim of raising awareness, promoting healthy behaviours, motivating self-care and early detection, as well as creating supportive environments for prevention and control of high blood pressure.
To learn more about hypertension, please visit the DH's thematic webpage (This link will open in a new windowwww.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/28258.html) or call the DH's Health Education Hotline 2833 0111.