Associate Research Scientist
World Hypertension Day is observed every year in order to raise global awareness and promote hypertension prevention, detection and control. The year’s theme is Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. It is, therefore, important to take steps to prevent, monitor and manage hypertension.
Uncontrolled hypertension (UHTN) is the most important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and a leading contributor to death. Close to 1.3 billion people had hypertension in 2019. The highest proportion (75% – 1.04 billion people) with hypertension are from low-and-middle-income-countries (LMICs).
Kenya is experiencing changes in its infectious disease burden which is still high, but at the same time, it is experiencing an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The most recent national survey showed that high blood pressure contributes to a significant (25%) burden of disease in Kenya. Despite the known and effective treatments for hypertension, gaps in hypertension care still persist in Kenya, particularly among the poorest communities. With World Hypertension Day on the horizon, it is the perfect opportunity to draw attention to a worrying issue – the factors associated with uncontrolled hypertension among those living in low-income settings. A recently published study sheds light on this matter, exploring the drivers of blood pressure control among patients with comorbidities who are already undergoing treatment in two slums in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
The study employs a socio-ecological framework, which takes into account individual, family and community; health system, and policy/enabling environment factors that might influence blood pressure. It finds that there are multiple levels of influence, ranging from individual behavior and knowledge all the way up to socioeconomic, environmental and political determinants. In this study, we noted that there is an urgent need to address these multifactorial dynamics in order to effectively reduce hypertension rates in low-income settings.
These findings have important implications for public health policies related to hypertension management. For instance, interventions need to take into account the underlying causes – such as poverty and inadequate access to healthcare – as well as issues related to patient engagement, such as awareness and adherence. Furthermore, health services need to be tailored not only for individuals but also for specific contexts. This means providing both patient education and support systems that are adapted to local needs and capacities.
Healthcare professionals play a key role in helping individuals take preventative measures to reduce their risk of high blood pressure. One way they can do this is by educating patients on the importance of healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and managing stress levels.
High blood pressure is a manageable condition and the International Society of Hypertension has suggested eight simple rules for living with it: measure your blood pressure regularly, reduce your alcohol intake, eat a balanced diet, reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight, take your medicines as prescribed, reduce salt in your diet and exercise regularly. These simple measures can help reduce high blood pressure and prevent complications associated with high blood pressure.
On this World Hypertension Day, let us use this study’s findings as an opportunity to raise awareness about the effects of poverty on hypertension rates and commit ourselves to focusing on multi-level solutions that address the underlying causes of this growing global health problem.
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