Activities across Iraq were held this week marking the World Health Day amid calls for intensified efforts to prevent and control high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, among Iraqi population. Ministry of Health led the Health Day activities emphasizing the importance of this major public health problem which affects about one billion people around the world in general and four million Iraqis alone.
Minister of Health, Dr Majeed Hamad, called for increasing efforts to address the behavior and life style associated risk factors of high blood pressure among Iraqi population. “The facts that high blood pressure could lead to heart attack, heart failure and other serious health complications and that it is preventable and treatable; we should promote healthy life style”, said Dr Majeed Hamad, the Minister of Health.
Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean highlighted the need for change in life styles to prevent and control high blood pressure. He urged to adopt and promote affordable and effective interventions such as eating healthy balanced diet, rich in vegetables and fruits, reducing salt intake and avoiding fats and sugar.
In Iraq, the prevalence of high blood pressure among adult population (25 years and above) and using medication to control it, was found to be 40% in 2008. The prevalence was found to be high among males than females. About 50% of the total mortality in Iraq is caused by non communicable diseases (NCDs). High blood pressure or hypertension is a major contributor to NCDs, a global epidemic which raises the alarm to do more and coordinated efforts by all stakeholders.
Promoting the significance of high blood pressure, WHO is calling on all adults around the world and in Iraq to get their blood pressure measured considering it the first step to prevent and control it. “We need a three pronged approach to deal with the challenge of high blood pressure or hypertension among people in Iraq a) promoting awareness on healthy life style which is simple and cost effective b) detect high blood pressure early through the network of Primary Health Care centers across the country since 92% of these centers provide comprehensive care and c) encourage access to and utilization of first line of subsidized medicine available at public sector clinics”, said Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO representative in Iraq.