HYPERTENSION has been identified as the leading risk factor for death in the world.
It is also a major cause of disability-adjusted life years. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
World Hypertension Day (WHD) is a day dedicated to creating awareness of hypertension.
The Malaysian Society of Hypertension(MSH) wrote to the World Hypertension League (WHL) in 2002 mooting the idea of having a World Hypertension Day as a means of highlighting the scourge to the public.
The (WHL) initiated the first WHD in 2005. From 2006, May 17 has been dedicated to commemorate WHD.
As a member under the umbrella of the WHL, the MSH supports and celebrates the day.
Each year, a different theme is selected to emphasise the important aspects related to blood pressure.
The theme for this year is "Healthy lifestyle, healthy blood pressure", emphasising the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
In the third National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS III) conducted in 2006, the prevalence of hypertension in adult Malaysians aged 30 years and over had increased to 42.6% from 32.9% in NHMS II in 1996.
Amongst the three main races, the Malays had significantly higher prevalence compared to Chinese and Indians.
There was no difference in prevalence among males but significant differences amongst the females with the Malay females having the highest prevalence rate of 48.4%, followed by Indians (39.5%) and Chinese (38.7%).
The prevalence of hypertension was also found to be:
> Inversely related to level of formal education with the highest prevalence in those with no formal education and the lowest prevalence in those with tertiary education;
> Higher in the lower income group;
> Higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas; and
> The awareness rate of hypertension amongst Malaysians was low with just over a third (35.8%) of hypertensives being aware of the disease. Female hypertensives had a higher awareness rate than males (40% against 31.5%).
Amongst the major races, the Malays had the lowest awareness rate.
In 2010, the Health Ministry unveiled the National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Disease (NSPNCD). This is a medium term strategic plan to further strengthen the Cardiovascular Diseases and Diabetes prevention and control programmes in Malaysia (2010-2014).
The NSPNCD contains seven key strategies, the first of which is prevention and promotion. Under this strategy of prevention and promotion, one of the key activities identified was intensifying media campaigns using television, radio and printed media, and the use of new approaches (e.g. via social networking on the Internet).
NSPNCD acknowledges that "Resources for prevention and control are limited" and looks towards partnerships and collaboration with NGOs, professional bodies and other stakeholders as a way forward.
The MSH fully supports the efforts to reduce the burden of NCD in general and of cardiovascular disease in particular.
The key strategy of Prevention (by Risk Factor modification and control) and Promotion (by increasing awareness of risk factors and the importance of a healthy lifestyle) is of utmost importance.
It is timely that the WHD reminds all of us of the importance of identifying and optimally treating those with hypertension.
MSH is doing its part to increase awareness via our website (www.msh.my) as well as our Facebook page which can also be accessed via a link on our website.
As part of our activities, there will be an online quiz for the public to participate in. Three participants will stand a chance to win a validated Home Blood Pressure Monitor.
Due to the very high prevalence of hypertension amongst the Malaysian population and the lack of awareness of this highly treatable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, MSH would welcome a more focused approach and more dedicated public health awareness programmes to commemorate World Hypertension Day in line with the key strategies in NSPNCD.
Dr AZANI MOHAMED DAUD,President,
Malaysian Society of Hypertension.
This article was published in www.thestar.com.my
on 17 May 2012.