Hypertension: The ‘silent killer’ and why you need to check your blood pressure

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Hypertension also called high blood pressure (BP) is when the pressure of the blood in the arteries is persistently elevated such that measurements are consistently above the accepted value of 140/90 mmHg.

It is also referred to as the silent killer as most people with hypertension will not show any symptom but may die suddenly from its effects or complications.

Globally, hypertension is responsible for about nine million deaths every year. According to the 2018 World Health Organization report, hypertension is the most common risk factor for cardiovascular deaths, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure are the number 1 cause of death globally.

In Africa, about 46% of persons who are 25years old and above have hypertension. In Ghana, averagely one out of three adults have hypertension and this may even be higher in an urban area.

The cause of hypertension is unknown in most cases but the risk increases if you have a family history of hypertension and other personal factors such as stress, obesity, excessive alcohol intake, smoking and increased salt intake. Less commonly, hypertension is caused by some medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease, pregnancy and some drugs.

An individual’s risk of acquiring hypertension can be reduced by cutting down on excessive alcohol consumption, increasing physical activity, reducing salt intake and stress management.

Hypertension can be diagnosed simply by measuring your blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer. Hypertension is often underdiagnosed causing most people to report with complications such as blindness, stroke, heart failure, heart attacks and kidney disease. The knowledge, treatment and effective control of hypertension is very low in Ghana as about half of people with hypertension are not even aware of it.

To combat this global menace, the International Society of Hypertension in collaboration with the World Hypertension League expanded the World Hypertension Day on May 17 to the whole month of May themed the May Measurement Month (MMM) initiative. MMM aims at highlighting the need for increased screening for raised blood pressure and reducing the BPs of all who require intervention according to current guidelines. Volunteers from over 100 countries including Ghana participated in MMM 2017 throughout the month of May making it a huge success. MMM 2018 was organized in four regions of Ghana- the Ashanti, Eastern, Greater Accra and Brong –Ahafo Regions and sought to build on the success of MMM 17.


In the Ashanti region, MMM was led by Senior Specialists at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH). Over two hundred people volunteered to be a part of the blood pressure measuring drive and the BPs of over ten thousand (10,000) people were measured. Participants were also educated on hypertension by experts and appropriate referrals were given when necessary.

MMM 2019 has been an even bigger success, in the Ashanti region, there are over four hundred (400) volunteers working tirelessly to measure the BPs of many inhabitants of the region. We have so far screened and educated thousands of adults for hypertension for free.

We are very grateful to all who are contributing to making it a success.

The Department of Medicine of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, KNUST School of Medicine and Dentistry as well as the major sponsor for MMM 2019, Denk Pharma. We are also grateful to Angel Group of companies and Opoku Trading Supermarket for their support. To our team of indefatigable volunteers who are the backbone of our success, we are forever indebted to you. We use this medium to call for support from all well-meaning Ghanaians and companies to this worthy cause to decrease the deaths associated with ‘the silent killer’.

Prevention and control of hypertension require multidisciplinary participation and collaboration between Governments, civil societies, academia, pharmaceutical companies, food and beverage industries. We strongly believe that expanding access to blood pressure screening and increasing awareness are the most effective ways of winning the fight against the “silent killer”.

The MMM initiative is relevant to Ghana and Africa and has been and will continue to be of immense help to us in our battle against hypertension.

Get your blood pressure checked now if you have not done that yet!

Authors: Elliot Koranteng Tannor, Yaw Adu-Boakye, Obed Ofori Nyarko, Saabea Owusu Konadu, Gilda Opoku, and Evans Xorse Amuzu.

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology-School Of Medicine and Dentistry(KNUST-SMD) & Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital(KATH)

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