‘Cut salt to tackle high blood pressure epidemic’

Salt in processed food should be reduced by regulation or taxation as there’s a “mass epidemic” of high blood pressure in the over-50s, a leading doctor with the Health Research Board has said.

The Institute of Public Health has predicted that by 2020, 1.22m people will be suffering from hypertension.

Professor Ivan Perry of the Centre for Health and Diet Research in UCC said the food sector needed to be tackled by Government.

“Most people are now well aware of the importance of healthy diet and regular exercise in the prevention and management of hypertension and the promotion of positive health and wellbeing.

“But action is now needed at public policy level. We need to persuade the food sector to reduce the amount of salt added to processed food through regulation and taxation if necessary.

“We also need dedicated public policy involving all government departments focused on the prevention of obesity in children and adults and on the promotion of physical activity in the population. We know what needs to be done and it is now time to get on with it.”

Anybody over the age of 45 needs to get their blood pressure regularly checked, as in eight years time, the Institute of Public Health has predicted 63% of this age group will have high blood pressure.

Its latest study reveals how many adults over the age of 45 are suffering from undiagnosed hypertension.

It showed how one third of adults, aged 45-54, have undiagnosed hypertension, whereas half of adults aged 75 and over have high blood pressure that has not been diagnosed.

The research also showed how under the age of 45, rates of diagnosed hypertension are similar among men and women. However, undiagnosed hypertension is more common amongst men over the age of 45. In this age bracket, 47% of men and 31.5% of women suffer from undiagnosed high blood pressure.

Hypertension occurs when blood pressure is constantly higher than the pressure needed to carry blood through the body. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for fatal conditions including stroke, coronary heart disease, and heart failure.

Dr Tony Holohan, Department of Health chief medical officer, said it was important that adults knew their risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

“Your GP can provide advice in these risk factors such as hypertension and cholesterol levels. I would also advise on the dangers of tobacco smoking which is a leading cause of preventable mortality.”

Medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, Dr Angie Brown, said that tackling obesity, promoting healthier lifestyles, and identifying and treating other risk factors would help moderate rates of hypertension.

“Prevention programmes for population health should address social, environmental, and other issues that influence the development of hypertension. At individual level, it is important for adults to know their blood pressure by having it checked regularly with their GP, this includes people already diagnosed with hypertension to ensure it is being well managed.”


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