The silent killer | Daily News

The silent killer

Professor Prasad Katulanda (MBBS, MD, FRCP (Lon), FCCP, FACE, DPhil (Oxford), who is a Professor in Medicine and Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist and the Head of the Department of Clinical Medicine, Colombo University made a scary revelation last week about the Sri Lankan people’s health. He said that one in every four Sri Lankans is suffering from hypertension and the percentage of hypertension patients among the people above the age of 60 is 50 percent.

This is a very serious and frightening revelation made by one of the most qualified medical professionals in our country and therefore the people and the decision makers of this country cannot ignore it. It is directly connected to the country’s workforce and development. A sick population cannot be tuned into a good workforce.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is when the pressure in your blood vessels is too high (140/90 mmHg or higher). It is common but can be serious if not treated. People with high blood pressure may not feel symptoms. The only way to know is to get your blood pressure checked. Hypertension is called a ‘silent killer’ because it does not show any symptoms.

High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, can also increase the risk for developing high blood pressure.

Anyone can reduce developing hypertension or control hypertension by maintaining the ideal BMI, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, reducing salt (sodium) in the diet, limiting alcohol, getting a good night’s sleep and reducing stress. Monitoring blood pressure regularly is essential. People should make sure that they get adequate sleep, exercise and less stress no matter what their profession is.

Reducing salt (sodium) in diets is very important because it has a direct connection to increase hypertension. Sri Lankans are consuming a lot of salt with all types of food and it seems they are addicted to salt just like they are addicted to sugar. But in foreign countries people never eat too much salt. Here in Sri Lanka almost all food contains salt and it seems people cannot eat with little or moderate salt.

This bad habit has been given to the Sri Lankan people by food producers, especially processed food producers because almost all types of food available in the market contain too much salt. People think it is normal and healthy to eat salt but the damage done to health by salt is significant.

Sri Lankan people are least concerned about certain items added to food such as salt, sugar, fat etc. They rarely check the traffic light system labeling for all food packages. They just go to the supermarket or shop and buy whatever is available and whatever they want without checking the traffic light system labelling which very clearly indicates how much sugar, salt and fat are contained in that specific food product.

The other problem is people consume salt without knowing that they consume salt. This happens when they eat from restaurants etc. and when they eat fast food etc. Even at home people eat too much salt because the mother or the housewife add more and more salt to food thinking that it makes food tasty without considering the negative health impact of consuming too much salt. On the other hand, it is the wife/mother who is getting the blame for food that does not taste good.

The WHO recommends that adults consume less than 5 g (just under a teaspoon) of salt per day. For children WHO recommend that the recommended maximum intake of salt for adults be adjusted downward for children aged two to 15 years based on their energy requirements relative to those of adults.

According to dietitians, what wives/mothers should do is take the accurate amount of salt that should be consumed by the entire family within that specific day from the salt jar and take salt from that amount stored separately and add to all food prepared at home during that day.

Unfortunately, Sri Lankan wives/mothers take salt from the salt jar directly and add to each and every dish without any limit or control. They do not know that they are pushing their husbands and other family members to their grave by doing it. They will never do it if they know this fact.

It is the sole responsibility of health professionals and the media to educate the people of the country on essential health matters but it seems the media is not ready to do it even though health professionals come forward from time to time in order to educate the public on essential health matters.

The Media gives the least priority and publicity to health matters and come forward and gives priority only when the entire country is facing a grave danger such as a pandemic. This is the common behaviour of the media in Sri Lanka. But sometimes it is too late by then. The Sri Lankan media never pays any attention at all to health issues that silently affect the entire population during a long period of time.

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