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          Hypertension - a global killer

          Almost 13% of all deaths world-wide are caused by hypertension, according to the World Health Organisation. World Hypertension Day this year is the 17 May and this important event is raising awareness of blood pressure check-ups through the MMM (May Measurement Month) campaign, using the social hashtag #checkyourpressure.

          Hypertension is more commonly known as high blood pressure. A wide range of factors can increase a person’s risk of contracting the condition, including age, family history, lack of exercise and obesity. Being of African or Caribbean origin, smoking, excess alcohol consumption and long-term sleep deprivation can also be factors. High blood pressure can be a silent killer - it’s estimated that half of the people with this condition are not actually aware of it.

          Strokes and coronary heart disease can come about because of hypertension, but heart and kidney failure, peripheral vascular disease and visual impairment are also risks.

          Hypertension is definitely something to avoid and, as many of the factors are lifestyle-related, this is certainly possible for most people. As with many conditions, eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and not smoking will all help to reduce the likelihood of sffering from the condition.

          For expatriates in certain countries, however, reducing lifestyle risks can be a challenge. Hot conditions can be a barrier to exercise, and high-pressure roles or social working environments can make it difficult to maintain a healthy diet.  

          For health insurers, the desire to support insured populations with wellness strategies and tools has been growing over the years. After all, it’s better to maintain a healthy population than simply pay the healthcare costs of a sick one. Moreover, because issues such as hypertension are largely lifestyle-related, insurers are able to make a positive impact.

          Health Risk Assessments, for example, are medical screening tests that allow doctors to spot adverse medical conditions early in the cycle. And when something is amiss, a proactive wellness plan can be designed and implemented to address the issue before it has a chance to take hold.

          Employee Assistance Programmes are also popular. Impartial counsellors are on-hand 24/7 to support an expatriate worker on a whole range of issues, including workplace stress that might be causing issues with sleep and other problems.

          Wearable fitness devices are encouraging many of us to be more active, government policies are aiming to tackle salt and sugar consumption in some parts of the world and anti-smoking messages are increasingly forthright and frequent. The fight between the opposing forces will continue unabated but as individuals, we have the power to change how we live to improve our future wellbeing, including our susceptibility to hypertension.