China’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday that 15 per cent of people living in China, that is about 200 million of the population, have high blood pressure or hypertension.

According to figures on a Chinese government website, only 1 in 3 of Chinese affected by high blood pressure is aware of it, and of these only 25 per cent sought treatment and a meagre 6 per cent got it under control.

The Health Ministry said not enough people are aware of blood pressure and the risks it poses, many don’t monitor it and the first time they know they have the condition is when they suffer a brain hemorrhage.

News agency Xinhua reported that the Ministry is urging the people of China to take more care of themselves and to take regular readings of their blood pressure at home and to ask for treatment promptly.

A survey of 9,900 high blood pressure patients in Beijing in 2007 found that fewer than 1 in 3 measured their blood pressure at home.

The Health Ministry want more people to monitor their blood pressure and on 8th October, to coincide with the 11th National High Blood Pressure Day, it is launching a “Home Self-Monitoring” campaign with a series of promotional events.

High blood pressure is also known as the “silent killer”, because there are often no symptoms until a serious problem develops. So unless you monitor it, the chances are you don’t know if you have it.

High blood pressure is a risk factor for strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, bursting of main blood vessels, peripheral artery disease and kidney disease. Even a small rise is linked to lower life expectancy.

In the US, there are three classifications of blood pressure used in diagnosing adults:

  • Normal blood pressure is a systolic blood pressure of under 120 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure of under 80 mmHg.
  • Prehypertension is as a systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure of 80-89 mmHg.
  • High blood pressure is a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or over or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or over.

Systolic pressure means when the heart is contracting, diastolic is when the heart is relaxing. People with prehypertension are at risk of developing high blood pressure.

If you are monitoring your blood pressure at home, make sure you have asked your doctor to advise you on how to do this and when to take the readings, and also that you have a reliable device. Blood pressure can vary through the day, so your doctor may advise you to take the readings regularly at the same time every day, for example after you have washed and dressed in the morning, and after returning from work.

According to the British Heart Foundation, for 90 per cent of cases, there is no definable cause of high blood pressure. But insufficient physical activity, smoking, being overweight, eating too much salt, drinking too much alcohol and not eating enough fruit and vegetables can contribute to the condition, while genes are also thought to play a role, with risk going up if both parents have or had blood pressure.

Source: Xinhua on China View, CDC, BHF, Blood Pressure Association, netdoctor.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD