the following blog post was written by Dr. Pamela Peacock, Museum Curator
April 7th marks World Health Day, a day that celebrates the birthday of the World Health Organization (WHO) by drawing attention to a significant health problem affecting the world today. The focus in 2013 is high blood pressure.
The WHO evolved out of a tradition, first begun in the nineteenth century, of international conferences and organizations that sought to facilitate disease prevention and control through cooperation. In 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations voted in favour of a new international health organization and, in 1946, the International Health Conference approved a constitution for the WHO. Between 1946 and 1948 signatures were collected to ratify this constitution and, finally, in 1948 the WHO was established. The organization established as its priorities malaria, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, nutrition, sanitary engineering, and venereal diseases. Many of these continue to be priorities for the WHO today. Additionally, new diseases, such as AIDS, have received sustained focus, as have ‘lifestyle diseases,’ such as heart disease and Type II diabetes.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a growing problem with significant health risks. Today, one in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure. More than 25% of Canadians have hypertension, and 90% will develop it at some point in their lifetime. Hypertension is the leading risk of premature death in the world.
High blood pressure occurs when blood vessels narrow or become rigid, often because of plaque build up. This causes the heart to work harder to pump the blood through the narrowed channels, which can lead to heart attack. If the vessels become weakened or blocked the result can be aneurism, stroke, or dementia. The health risks of hypertension are serious and life-threatening.
Plaque buildup leads to high blood pressur
The most common causes of high blood pressure are related to lifestyle choices. Eating high calorie diets with too much sodium and saturated fats, not getting enough exercise, smoking, and drinking more than the recommended weekly limit all contribute to hypertension. Genes also factor into the equation. Luckily, we can all make choices to decrease the risk of high blood pressure, by getting at least thirty minutes of exercise a day, eating a low fat, low sodium diet, and managing our stress more effectively. Medicine may also be prescribed to help individuals manage their high blood pressure.
A healthy lifestyle minimizes your risk of hypertension.
Hypertension is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because there are often no outward signs or symptoms until a dangerous health incident, such as stroke, occurs. Knowing your blood pressure measurement and taking this reading on a regular basis is a key tool in managing risk. Normal blood pressure is 120/80, while 140/90 is considered high for the average adult. The first number represents the systolic pressure, the pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries as the heart contracts, while the second is the diastolic pressure, the pressure exerted when the heart relaxes. Read more »
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