Saturday, February 25, 2017

Clarion Call for BP Awareness

Wazzup Pilipinas!

The Philippine Society of Hypertension joins the International Society of Hypertension and World Hypertension League in their global effort to stem the tide of hypertension, which remains the leading cause of deaths in the Philippines and worldwide. Find out how you can help save tens of thousands of Filipinos yearly

Hypertension or high blood pressure (BP) remains the number one cause of deaths from all causes worldwide. In Southeast Asia wherein the Philippine population makes around 16 percent of the population of the region, the annual mortality attributed to high BP is nearly 1.5 million deaths.

In the Philippines, it is estimated that around 200,000 deaths yearly can be attributed directly or indirectly to high BP.

With one out of four adult Filipinos having high BP, and with roughly half of them not knowing they are hypertensive, this really calls for some urgent action.

“The International Society of Hypertension (ISH) has identified increased awareness as a key issue in the fight against raised blood pressure,” says Professor Neil Poulter, current ISH president. “To address the huge disease burden caused by raised BP, it is imperative that we increase the levels of awareness among the world’s hypertensive population,” he adds, citing a recently published study showing the rates of awareness, treatment and control of hypertension worldwide.

In the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, which looked at the prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension in rural and urban communities in high-, middle-, and low-income countries involving a multinational study population, less than half (46.5 percent) are aware they have high BP, and the control rate was dismally poor at 13.1 percent. Awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension were higher in urban communities compared with rural ones in low-income countries, as well as low-middle-income countries like the Philippines (urban vs rural, P <.001). (Chow et al JAMA 2013)

PSH commitment

Dr. Lynn Gomez, president of the Philippine Society of Hypertension, says that the PSH, which is closely allied with the ISH, is committed to help increase awareness through its various public education campaigns. The PSH has also been conducting an annual Hypertension Specialist Course to provide all physicians involved in the management of hypertensive patients updated knowledge for a better understanding of hypertension and the various strategies that can be employed to control it.

Dr. Gomez recently led the PSH in revisiting its mission and vision, and prioritizing its strategies for BP control; and it has also identified increasing public awareness as a key factor to improve control.

However, despite all efforts by the government and the various medical organizations like the ISH, PSH and others involved in hypertension, the awareness, treatment and control of hypertension remain dismally inadequate in our country and worldwide. It calls for doubling and more importantly, sustaining our collective efforts to diagnose those with high BP and start them on treatment to prevent disabling and potentially fatal long-term complications.

This urgent call is going to be emphasized during the joint annual convention of the PSH and Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society (PLAS) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on February 23-25. Prof. Poulter is joining the PSH-PLAS in the convention to deliver a plenary lecture, and to boost local efforts in public BP screening.

The PSH and the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) have been participating in the annual World Hypertension Day (WHD) in May of each year. The WHD has been initiated by the World Hypertension League (WHL). 

May Measurement Month 2017

Although the WHD quite successful in detecting many unaware hypertensive individuals, undiagnosed hypertension continues to be a global burden on society, governments, health care professionals and individuals, says Prof. Poulter. “Hence, from 2017 the ISH in collaboration with the WHL plan to facilitate the expansion of WHD into an exciting campaign and month of global BP measurement—May Measurement Month 2017 (MMM17),” he says in his video message sent to all international affiliates and partners of the ISH and WHL.

“We have an ambitious goal during the month of May 2017 to screen 25 million people, who have not had their BPs measured since April 30, 2016, during the month of May 2017,” explains Prof. Poulter. He encourages each country to target to screen 1 percent of the population. “We believe that this goal is achievable but it can only be met with everyone’s support and commitment.”

For the Philippines, the PSH, which is the local national coordinating society spearheading the month-long MMM17, is targeting to screen at least 1 million Filipinos, 18 years and older.

The PSH is coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) and various allied medical organizations including the PHA, Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), Philippine Medical Association (PMA), Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP), Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (PSEDM), Institute for the Study of Diabetes Foundation (ISDF), Diabetes Philippines (DP), Philippine Society of Neurology (PSN), Stroke Society of the Philippines (SSP), and Philippine Society of Nephrology (PSN).

‘Walking time bombs’

According to Dr. Rafael Castillo, a past president of the PSH and the Asian Pacific Society of Hypertension (APSH) and currently a member of the ISH Council, the MMM17 is just part of continuous campaign to draw sustained awareness for high BP and highlight the need for nationwide screening to detect everyone with raised BP, particularly high-risk individuals who are figuratively “walking time bombs.” They are called such because anytime they could “explode” to develop complications like a massive stroke, acute myocardial infarction and even sudden cardiac death.

He cites as an example a middle-age dentist who only accompanied her husband for a check-up, but was surprised when she also had her BP checked in the clinic and was found to have severe hypertension with repeated readings of more than 200/110 mmHg. She did not recall any symptom attributable to high BP, so it came as a big surprise to her.

“This is not an isolated case, and there are many more like her in the population. It only takes a few minutes to have one’s BP checked. Everyone must know his/her BP,” advises Dr. Castillo.

For MMM17, Prof. Poulter says that all those found to have BPs in the hypertensive range (≥140mmHg systolic and/or ≥ 90mmHg diastolic), will be counseled on diet and lifestyle modifications, and referred to their family physician for drug treatment and monitoring. Basic information will also be collected during the screening, and the data on untreated hypertension will be used “to motivate governments to improve local screening facilities and policies, and thereby to reduce the global burden of disease associated with raised BP,” says Prof. Poulter.

Prof. Poulter and the PSH officers are encouraging everyone to spread the word about MMM17 and encourage colleagues and friends to become involved: to establish screening centers, set up screening events in the month of May and/or dedicate their time as volunteers to screen targeted groups of the population. Volunteers may be nurses, doctors, medical students, community health workers etc.

According to Prof. Poulter, a stand-alone website will soon be available where participants can sign up, download materials and learn more about the campaign

A specially designed App will be available to collect all of the BP screening data. Where a screening center does not have easy access to the internet it will also be possible to supply the obtained data on an excel database. This App will be made available to all those participating in MMM17. A toolkit of information and supporting collateral will also be supplied.

Dedicated project managers will manage the MMM17 and will be available to answer any questions anyone may have. They will also help coordinate the global campaign.

“Together, we must try to make a difference to the biggest single contributor to global death and to the burden of this disease and we believe that increasing awareness of hypertension is one of the best ways of making such a difference,” Prof. Poulter exhorts all colleagues and volunteers to this global campaign.

Prof. Poulter and our local hypertension experts have sounded the clarion call. Let’s heed this call. Hopefully, we can save tens of thousands of Filipinos who may succumb to hypertension-related complications. This may include some of our loved ones.

Those who are interested to volunteer for MMM17 may call the PSH secretariat, Ms. Rowena Ramos, at telephone numbers 696 2819, 0917 625 5810; or email,

Intra-text Quote

“Together, we must try to make a difference to the biggest single contributor to global death and to the burden of this disease, and we believe that increasing awareness of hypertension is one of the best ways of making such a difference” - Prof. Neil Poulter, ISH president

Written By Dr. Reuben C. Ricallo

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