Since 2005, World Hypertension Day is celebrated each year on 17th May to communicate to the lay public the importance of hypertension and its serious medical complications, and to provide information on prevention, detection and treatment.
This year, the theme is ‘Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer‘ and focuses on combatting low awareness rates worldwide, especially in low to middle income areas, and accurate blood pressure measurement methods.
Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure, is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure.
Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in the vessels. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the vessels. Blood pressure is created by the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels (arteries) as it is pumped by the heart. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart has to pump.
Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats.
Hypertension is diagnosed if, when it is measured on two different days, the systolic blood pressure readings on both days is ≥140 mmHg and/or the diastolic blood pressure readings on both days is ≥90 mmHg.
Hypertension ̶ or elevated blood pressure ̶ is a serious medical condition that significantly increases the risks of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases.
An estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years worldwide have hypertension, most (two-thirds) living in low- and middle-income countries.
The WHO African Region has the highest prevalence of hypertension (27%) while the WHO Region of the Americas has the lowest prevalence of hypertension (18%).
An estimated 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition.
Less than half of adults (42%) with hypertension are diagnosed and treated.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults (21%) with hypertension have it under control.
Hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide.
One of the global targets for noncommunicable diseases is to reduce the prevalence of hypertension by 33% between 2010 and 2030.
Modifiable risk factors include
- unhealthy diets (excessive salt consumption,
- a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats,
- low intake of fruits and vegetables),
- physical inactivity,
- consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and
- being overweight or obese.
Non-modifiable risk factors include
- a family history of hypertension,
- age over 65 years, and
- co-existing diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Hypertension is called a “silent killer”. Most people with hypertension are unaware of the problem because it may have no warning signs or symptoms. For this reason, it is essential that blood pressure is measured regularly.
When symptoms do occur, they can include
- early morning headaches,
- irregular heart rhythms,
- vision changes, and
- buzzing in the ears.
Severe hypertension can cause
- chest pain, and
- muscle tremors.
The only way to detect hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure.
Among other complications, hypertension can cause serious damage to the heart. Excessive pressure can harden arteries, decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. This elevated pressure and reduced blood flow can cause:
- Chest pain, also called angina.
- Heart attack, which occurs when the blood supply to the heart is blocked and heart muscle cells die from lack of oxygen. The longer the blood flow is blocked, the greater the damage to the heart.
- Heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to other vital body organs.
- Irregular heart beat which can lead to a sudden death.
Hypertension can also burst or block arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain, causing a stroke.
In addition, hypertension can cause kidney damage, leading to kidney failure.
The following help prevent hypertension:
- Reducing salt intake (to less than 5g daily).
- Eating more fruit and vegetables.
- Being physically active on a regular basis.
- Avoiding use of tobacco.
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Limiting the intake of foods high in saturated fats.
- Eliminating/reducing trans fats in diet.
Link to the World Hypertension Day 2022 website:
Link to WHO factsheet on Hypertension:
Link to PAHO website page on World Hypertension Day 2022: