Urgent need for hypertension awareness campaign

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   10th May 2022

On European Stroke Awareness Day, the Irish Heart Foundation is calling for a hypertension awareness campaign

To mark European Stroke Awareness Day today (Tuesday 10 May 2022), the Irish Heart Foundation is calling on Government to develop a 5-year high blood pressure awareness and behaviour change campaign to raise awareness of this silent killer.

High blood pressure or hypertension is known as a ‘silent killer’ as almost half of sufferers are unaware that they have the condition, which is a key risk factor for stroke, the third-highest cause of death in Ireland.

The theme of European Stroke Awareness Day 2022 is hypertension, and the Irish Heart Foundation is also calling on the public to be more aware of their blood pressure status and to get it checked regularly.

A review of the 2016 Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), published in the Journal of Public Health, revealed that 64 per cent of over-50s have high blood pressure but 45 per cent were unaware of it.

The review also found that 59 per cent of people with hypertension were taking medication for the condition but almost half did not have it under control.

" Many strokes are preventable and the principal risk factors – including high blood pressure – are increasing in prevalence."

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , The Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “Many strokes are preventable and the principal risk factors – including high blood pressure – are increasing in prevalence. On European Stroke Awareness Day today, we are calling for a hypertension awareness campaign which will improve quality of life, reduce disability and mortality and prompt a reduction in costs to the health service.

“Hypertension often goes unnoticed but it is among the leading modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease and premature death worldwide. The condition is often preventable but is exacerbated by policy and environmental factors which cause poor lifestyle behaviours such as unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.”

“Despite being the leading modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death, research has shown that Ireland has one of the lowest rates of awareness, treatment and control of hypertension among 12 high-income countries.

“The World Health Organisation recommends an absolute risk approach for the control of hypertension, describing it as the ‘best buy’ available to governments to support people who have had a heart attack or stroke or are at high risk of a cardiovascular event.”

" It is critical that the public has a clear understanding that hypertension is one of the strongest markers of cardiovascular risk, "

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager, The Irish Heart Foundation

Ms Reilly added, “Currently in Ireland, only patients holding a medical or a GP visit card can receive check-ups for hypertension without charges and there are no plans at present to introduce free check-ups for hypertension to the general population.

“As the threat from Covid-19 recedes, a hypertension campaign would be very timely to refocus on chronic disease risk factor identification, treatment and control,” she said.

Ms Reilly said the prevalence, functional consequences, disease risk, and associated mortality of hypertension placed a considerable burden on individuals and consumed major national health service resources.

“We have made this call to Government in the past in a pre-budget submission, and will continue to campaign for it. It is critical that the public has a clear understanding that hypertension is one of the strongest markers of cardiovascular risk. Few Irish patients are routinely evaluated to determine the presence of hypertension, awareness of the diagnosis is low, and the benefits of treatment are not well appreciated.”

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blood pressure control high blood pressure high blood pressure awareness hypertension hypertension awareness risk factor stroke

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