Yangyel Lhaden

Non-communicable diseases, also called lifestyle diseases, account for 69 percent of total deaths in the country, with cardiovascular or heart disease accounting for 28 percent of these deaths.

Having hypertension, or high blood pressure, significantly increases the risk of mortality from stroke, heart disease, or kidney failure. In fact, individuals with hypertension are four times more likely to succumb to stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease or kidney failure, all of which are classified as lifestyle diseases.

As the nation marked World Hypertension Day (WHD) on March 17, it was concerning to note that the prevalence of elevated blood pressure among adults has risen from 28 percent in 2019 to 30 percent in 2023. Alarmingly, 65 percent of the adult population continues to go undiagnosed for hypertension.

According to the annual health bulletin, cases of hypertension have risen from 24,977 in 2018 to 25,770 in 2022.

WHD was commemorated at the Royal Bhutan Police Headquarters (RBPH) in Thimphu. The Ministry of Health organised the event in collaboration with the Bhutan Kidney Foundation, Bhutan Stroke Foundation, Faculty of Nursing and Health, and Apollo Bhutan Institute of Nursing.

The theme for this year’s WHD was “Measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer!”

“NCD is prioritised under the 13th plan due to its high prevalence,” Programme Officer for Lifestyle-Related Diseases with the Health Ministry, Karchung, said. “Under the Service with Care and Compassion Initiative, every health center checks the blood pressure of every patient for early detection of hypertension and its related risks.”

Karchung noted that this year’s WHD was observed at RBPH to appreciate the unwavering dedication of the police in the country and to accommodate their busy schedules, which make it difficult for them to visit the hospital. “As part of our efforts for early detection, today we have chosen to reach out to the police and their families.”

The Faculty of Nursing and Health, and Apollo Bhutan Institute of Nursing provided health screenings for the participants. The participants’ Body Mass Index, blood sugar, blood pressure, and HIV status were checked with advocacy and awareness about NCDs by health officials.

Normal blood pressure is typically defined as having a systolic reading of 130 or less and a diastolic reading below 85. If one’s blood pressure falls within the range of 130-139 systolic and 85-89 diastolic, it is categorised as pre-hypertension. Individuals in this category are advised to make lifestyle improvements and monitor their blood pressure regularly. High blood pressure, on the other hand, is indicated by a systolic reading above 140 and a diastolic reading above 90. In such cases, seeking medical assistance and considering blood pressure medication is crucial to prevent potential complications like stroke and heart attack.

Health officials advise individuals diagnosed with high blood pressure to adhere to their prescribed medications diligently. Consistent intake of prescribed medicines, officials say, is essential for effectively managing high blood pressure and reducing the risk of associated complications.

To prevent and control high blood pressure, health officials recommend limiting salt intake to no more than five grams, which is roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of salt per day. Additionally, they advise maintaining a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, with an emphasis on consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Individuals are advised to maintain a healthy weight, engage in regular exercise for at least 30 minutes daily, refrain from tobacco and alcohol use, ensure a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, and manage stress effectively.