When measuring your blood pressure, make sure the cuff fits snugly. This was the advice from medical scholar Professor Emeritus Sir Henry Fraser, who was part of a three-man panel at a recently held public discussion entitled “Conquering the Silent Killer…Our Response.”
The discussion, a collaborative effort between The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados Inc., The Barbados Diabetes Foundation, and The Diabetes and Hypertension Association of Barbados, which took place virtually, culminated a series of activities in the month of May designed to empower persons to actively fight against Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and specifically, hypertension. These activities fell under the broad umbrella of the international theme for 2022: ‘Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer.’
Professor Fraser, retired Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, said that it was important for patients, medical practitioners, and nurses to remember that if there is a space between the cuff and the arm, the blood pressure has to be elevated much more for the cuff and the arm to meet, and this can give a false high reading.
“What we need is not to diagnose hypertension on a single reading, it should be diagnosed on the basis of one or more readings at the first visit and one or more readings at a subsequent visit, and then treatment has to be initiated in conjunction with the other risk factors to determine how aggressive you need to be or how modest the approach needs to be,” he advised.
He stated that one of the main barriers to improvement was behavioural change, however ‘hypertension is not the end of the world’.
President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) and one of the founding presidents of The Heart & Stroke Foundation, Professor Sir Trevor Hassell, lamented the need for front-of-package labeling of pre-packaged food as the country tackles, not just diabetes but all Non-Communicable Diseases.
He noted that quite often, consumers are completely unaware of the contents of pre-packaged food. Professor Hassell said it is time this is implemented so that consumers can identify what is the level of products within or constituents within these pre-packaged foods and the level of salt, sugar, trans fats, and other fats contained.
Front of package warning labels (FOPWL) would be the next prong of attack in the NCD epidemic. In terms of responses and patient care, Professor Hassell further emphasised that there was an ongoing requirement to balance patient needs with the facilities available to serve them.
Meantime, Dr. Kenneth Connell, Hypertension Specialist and Deputy Dean Internationalisation and Recruitment, in addressing the links between hypertension and COVID, said it was important that patients do not see their home environment as abstract where they are unable to take and monitor their own blood pressure.
He made the point that on a global scale and even at the local level, clinicians are encouraging persons to take their BP regularly and come to their appointments prepared to share and discuss their readings. Taking and monitoring one’s own blood pressure should therefore become routine.
He shared that there are programmes which promote the remote monitoring of blood pressure using validated devices. In his comments, Dr. Connell did not hesitate to re-state that hypertension is one of the top risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease.
“This means as a people, we have to be doing more and doing it differently,” he said. The online panel discussion was aimed at raising awareness of the prevalence of and other issues surrounding hypertension in Barbados and ventilating on the varied responses past, present and those required in the future to ‘Conquer the Silent Killer’.
Each panelist emphasised that patients should be empowered to take ownership of their health, starting with their blood pressure. In essence, hypertension is a risk factor which impacts several health elements and must be taken seriously by all.
The other activities undertaken by the three organisations during the month of May were a church service as well as community screening, where the three organisations facilitated three separate public blood pressure screening locations at Sheraton Mall, Worthing Square Food Court and Sky Mall. (PR)