ISLAMABAD, April 6: In observance of World Health Day on Sunday, the World Health Organization has released a global brief on hypertension, which they say can be harmful not just to individuals but also on a national scale.

Also referred to as high blood pressure, hypertension is the single greatest contributor to stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular disease takes about 17 million lives each year; of these, 9.4 million, or more than half, can be linked to complications of hypertension. In addition, 51 percent of deaths from stroke can be linked to hypertension.

The condition is more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries than in wealthier countries, according to the WHO report.

Because these countries tend to have larger populations, this means a more significant number of affected people.

These countries also tend to have weak health systems, which leads to many more hypertensive citizens going undiagnosed and untreated.

Between 2011 and 2025, the report suggests that non-communicable diseases such as hypertension will contribute to a loss of output projected to total $7.28 billion in low- and middle-income countries. The yearly loss represents nearly 4 percent of these countries' GDP.

The WHO report also highlights the "social determinants of health," such as income, education and housing, which can lead to greater disease burden. In developing countries, rapid and unplanned urbanization has played its part in increasing hypertension, by facilitating a lifestyle that encourages sedentary behavior and the consumption of fast food, tobacco, and excessive alcohol.

The report includes several suggestions for ways people can help combat hypertension. Chief among these is getting one's blood pressure checked. "When people know their blood pressure level," the report says, "they can take steps to control it."

"The odds of developing high blood pressure," it continues, “can be minimised by promoting a lifestyle that encourages proper nutrition, including adequate servings of fruit and vegetables, a reduction in fat intake, regular physical activity, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol.

Salt and sodium have been identified as major causes of hypertension. The WHO report recommends that adults consume a maximum of 5 grams of salt per day.

In popular processed foods such as bread, processed meat, snack foods, soy sauce, and bouillon and stock cubes, the sodium content generally approaches 100 grams.

Potassium is another important element. The WHO recommends that adults consume at least 3510mg of potassium each day; potassium-rich foods include beans and peas, nuts, spinach, cabbage, parsley, bananas, papayas and dates, all of which offer around 100 grams of potassium.

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