Heart Foundation concerned about high number of people with hypertensionWednesday, July 21, 2021
THE Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) is expressing concern about the high number of individuals suffering from high blood pressure.
It has been revealed that 25 per cent or $1.4 billion of the $5.63 billion spent by the National Health Fund (NHF) in 2020 on medication subsidies for various categories of illness was spent on high blood pressure medication.
The figure was provided by NHF Executive Director Everton Anderson at the recent launch of the Jamaica Salt Consumption, Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (Salt-KAP) Study.
Anderson pointed out that of the 17 conditions covered by the NHF, the majority of the 398,000 enrollees have hypertension.
In an interview with JIS News following the launch, HFJ Executive Director Deborah Chen said Jamaicans need to work harder to reduce the number of people suffering from the disease.
“If we can make a dent in the blood pressure numbers, if we can get people to prevent high blood pressure and to control it by being compliant with their medication and to prevent it by leading a healthy lifestyle, watching our salt intake, by exercising regularly and watching what we eat, then eventually the money that we spend at a personal and a national level on treating high blood pressure could be much improved,” the executive director said.
Meanwhile, Chen had some advice on the reduction of salt intake, which she said is necessary to be heart-healthy but must be limited.
“Salt is necessary for water balance in our body and for nerve conduction, but unfortunately, most persons have been found, in global studies that we have looked at, to have 1.5 to two times the amount of recommended salt for the day,” Chen said.
The executive director pointed out that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is approximately one level teaspoon of salt.
“Most of the salt that we eat, about 75 per cent, comes from packaged foods that we buy and another 25 per cent is what we add at the table, so it's not just adding salt to the pot and reaching for the salt shaker at a restaurant. It is also in the packaged foods that you buy, so we have to be very mindful,” she said.
Chen explained that something does not have to taste particularly salty to have more than the RDA, so it is important to know the salt content in products that you purchase.
The executive director highlighted the foundation's recent advocacy efforts along with its partners at the Ministry of Health and Wellness and others for front-of-package labels.
“This includes a label on the front of the package to say that this product is high in salt. If, in fact, that is the case, that would certainly support what we are saying here now in terms of salt,” Chen said.
She indicated that there are many dishes that are high in salt and advised that individuals should be mindful of those foods, such as salt fish, pig's tail and salt mackerel, in relation to the daily intake.
The executive director recommended boiling or scalding off some of the salt and limiting the regularity with which these foods are included in the diet.
She also suggested that people should not automatically reach for the salt shaker at the table without first tasting the food to find out if, in fact, it needs salt.
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