SUVA, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Fiji on Sunday joined the international community in observing World Health Day and addressing health issues around the globe.
World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation in 1948. Each year, a theme is selected for World Health Day that highlights a priority area of public health concern in the world.
The theme for 2013 is high blood pressure.
In Fiji, a non-communicable diseases survey showed that one out of four adults has high blood pressure, and two out of three people do not even know they have a problem.
According to the survey result, warning signs of high blood pressure, which can cause damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes, are vague or usually absent in Fiji.
"People with uncontrolled hypertension can suffer from strokes, heart diseases or failure, chronic kidney failure and nerve damage in the eyes leading to blindness," Health Minister Dr. Neil Sharma was quoted as saying by a statement from Fiji's Ministry of Information.
People who smoke cigarettes, are overweight or obese, or have a family history of hypertension should have their blood pressure checked. People who take large amounts of alcohol, too much salt and are more than 30 years old should also get checked for high blood pressure. Other people who need to have their blood pressure checked are those under a lot of stress and those taking medicines or pills for any medical condition or reason.
Sometimes, high blood pressure can cause symptoms such as headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, palpitations of the heart or nose bleeds.
"If people ignore measuring blood pressure because they think symptoms will alert them to the problem, then it can be dangerous because high blood pressure is often a silent killer," warned Sharma.
The Fiji National Nutrition Survey 2004 showed that a higher proportion of males were found to have borderline hypertension and hypertension before the age of 45 compared to females. However, a reversal was observed at 45 years and over with females showing a higher proportion of hypertension compared to males.
There is the potential for changing this situation in Fiji. Public education about the risks of hypertension could lead to more people receiving treatment. Decreased salt in the diet, weight loss, more reliance on fruits and vegetables and traditional foods, increased exercise in the urban population, and better compliance with medication may all decrease the complication rate from hypertension.