World Hypertension Day — May 17

Washington, DC, May 15, 2009 (PAHO)—The World Hypertension League is highlighting salt and high blood pressure as the two silent killers for this year's observance of World Hypertension Day, Sunday, May 17. This is an international event with public activities taking place worldwide to raise awareness about high blood pressure.

Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure and it is the single biggest risk factor for death -- causing heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Unbeknownst to many, high salt (sodium) consumption is the cause of hypertension in about 3 in 10 adults. Globally, 7 million die very year because of high blood pressure and many of these deaths could be prevented by eating less sodium. In fact, if salt intake was reduced by half it would save approximately 2.5 million people a year dying unnecessarily of strokes, heart attacks and chronic kidney diseases worldwide.

Sodium is part of table salt but up to 80% of the sodium we consume comes from processed or packaged food and food eaten in restaurants. The average daily salt intake worldwide is approximately 9-12 grams per person, twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (1 teaspoon of salt of 5-6 grams per day).

In the region of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization is mobilizing resources to step-up efforts for dietary salt reduction in the region. Countries have started working with industry and other stakeholders to address this problem. Efforts are underway to form a task force to look into this problem as well as survey the salt content of commonly consumed foods in the Americas.

On a personal level, practical things that people can do to reduce salt consumption are to eat fewer servings of processed and high-sodium foods, check food labels before buying, substitute salt with various spices, and get rid of the salt shaker. The importance of having regular blood pressure checks is also stressed.

World Hypertension Day is spearheaded by the World Hypertension League, a division of the International Society of Hypertension, and is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO). This is the fifth year of this event.

For more information about World Hypertension Day events in your country, contact your national hypertension society or visit the World Hypertension Day website.

For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Public Information Officer, Knowledge Management and Communication, tel (202) 974-3122, fax (202) 974-3143.