St Lucia: Health Ministry with PAHO launches HEARTS Initiatives
St Lucia: Health Ministry with PAHO launches HEARTS Initiatives

St Lucia: World Hypertension Day is commemorated on May 17 annually. The theme for this year is “Measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer”.

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure is a serious condition. It increases the risk of heart disease and strokes. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.13 billion people have hypertension, and only 1 in 5 people with hypertension have it under control.

In St Lucia, an estimated 27 percent of adults have high blood pressure and only 1/3 of the people with high blood pressure, who are registered within the primary health care system, have their blood pressure under control.

Given the serious implications of high blood pressure and the fact that it is the most common preventable cause of cardiovascular disease, St Lucia, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), launched the HEARTS Initiative in primary-care clinics. HEARTS provides a comprehensive and strategic approach to improving awareness, accurate measurement, management, and control of high blood pressure.

Over the past two (2) years, despite the harsh challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health and non-health staff and patients have received training that has helped to improve the overall management of high blood pressure and improved the number of persons who are aware of their condition.

The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs appeal to all St Lucians to know their blood pressure status by checking regularly and documenting the results. Measurements must be done following the appropriate technique and using a validated blood pressure monitor.

Controlled hypertension results in significantly fewer deaths, disabilities, and events such as heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure can be controlled by changes in lifestyle and the use of prescribed medicines called anti-hypertensives.

Lifestyle changes include reducing mental stress, weight loss if overweight or obese, not smoking, reducing alcohol intake, increasing levels of physical activity, and eating a heart-healthy diet. High blood pressure is a chronic condition, and people may need help to manage their condition. The Ministry of Health has introduced the Herself-Management Program, which empowers people with hypertension and other chronic diseases. Registration for this program can be done at the nearest Wellness Centre.

The Government of St Lucia has approved the implementation of a process which will lead to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and the management and treatment of hypertension will be an essential part of Phase one of the UHC. Additionally, the Commission for non-communicable diseases has been reactivated by the Cabinet and activities of the Commission will help to create even greater awareness.

St Lucians, remember that early death, disease and disability from high blood pressure can be avoided.

The Ministry appealed, “Take charge of your health. Visit the nearest Wellness Centre for blood pressure measurements, nutritional counselling, or medical visits. High blood pressure can kill. Take it seriously. Measure your blood pressure accurately, control your blood pressure and live longer.”