Since 2005, the World Hypertension League (WHL), an umbrella organization of 85 national hypertension societies and leagues, has pledged to raise global awareness of hypertension by dedicating May 17 every year as “World Hypertension Day”.
Hypertension (HT) is more commonly known as high blood pressure. It is a chronic medical condition where blood pressure in a person's arteries is elevated. The increased pressure puts strain on the heart and leads to coronary artery and hypertensive heart disease. High blood pressure is recognised to be a major risk factor in strokes, peripheral arterial disease, chronic kidney disease and arterial aneurysms such as aortic aneurysms.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and it is recorded as two figures. Systolic pressure (the top number) is the pressure of the blood when your heart pushes blood out and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats. These reflect how strongly your arteries are resisting blood flow.
The theme of World Hypertension Days for the years 2013-2018 is "Know Your Numbers” as it is important to raise awareness of what is considered to be high blood pressure. A normal systolic blood pressure is between 100 – 140 mmHg systolic. A normal diastolic blood pressure (at rest) is between 60 – 90 mmHg diastolic. Therefore, high blood pressure is present if the systolic and diastolic figures are above 140/90 mmHg respectively.
Figures from the WHL showed that, globally, only half of those with hypertension were aware they had the condition. Even more concerning is that awareness in some populations is less than 10% with only a few world populations having an awareness rate of more than 75%.
By raising awareness of hypertension and the dangers associated with the condition, it is hoped that people will proactively seek medical advice to ensure that the condition is promptly treated. The WHL is campaigning for high capacity community screening programmes for those at risk of hypertension and also to ensure that all health care professionals routinely assess a patient’s blood pressure during all clinical encounters.
Camilla Wonnacott, a member of the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, said: “Increasing awareness of the importance of blood pressure testing as well as an understanding of the potential risks that go along with high blood pressure are important goals. Unfortunately, we often see cases where medical professionals have either failed to screen patients for hypertension or to manage the condition once diagnosed which can lead to devastating consequences.
“We are currently acting for a family who lost a loved one who had been suffering from hypertension. Although the hypertension appears to have been diagnosed, the doctors failed to recognise that the patient developed a recognised complication of the condition, an aortic aneurysm, and she consequently died from an aortic dissection. We hope that by raising awareness amongst the general population and medical professionals alike, future tragedies like this can be avoided."