The untimely death of award-winning actor Darshan Dharmaraj at the age of 41 years provides ample evidence to the danger faced by Sri Lankans from heart ailments.
Research has indicated that almost one third of the country’s adult population suffer from high blood pressure, with half of them unaware of their condition.
A study conducted by the Sri Lanka Health and Ageing Study consortium, has found that the estimated prevalence of hypertension (HTN) in all Sri Lankan adults was 28.2 percent using the traditional definition of HTN.
This nearly doubled to 51.3 percent when applying a revised 2017 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association definition.
Of those classified as hypertensive according to the older and the 2017 definitions, 53.4 percent and 31.2 percent, respectively, were previously diagnosed, the abstract of the study published by the World Heart Federation said.
Of the 23.2 percent of adults reclassified as hypertensive by the new definition, 16.6 percent had a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or diabetes.
Increased prevalence was associated with urban residence, socioeconomic status, obesity, and Muslim ethnicity.
Prevalence increased with age, but the increase was steeper in women from their 30s, the abstract said.
One of the study’s authors Dr. Ravi Rannan-Eliya of the Institute of Health Policy said the incidence of high blood pressure in some groups in Sri Lanka is exceptionally high.
“This percentage is exceptionally high in some groups and it depends on who you are and where you live,” he said, noting relatively high salt intakes and obesity among other reasons as likely causes.
Most of the high rates of obesity were reported in urban areas and in the Muslim community, which may be due to a tendency among Muslims to have a higher body mass indexes, said Dr. Rannan-Eliya.
Men and women had reported similar levels of high blood pressure, but the increase was steeper in women from their 30s, with more women aged 60 and over recording more cases of high blood pressure than men – a factor he attributes to hormonal changes and menopause.
Regionally, high levels of blood pressure were seen in Colombo and Nuwara Eliya districts, with each reporting more than three in one patients with high blood pressure.
The United States and Canada have the lowest rates of blood pressure in the world, said Dr. Rannan-Eliya, and measures must be adopted to maintain pressure levels to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
Sri Lanka can overcome its high rates of blood pressure through frequent testing so patients are aware of their conditions and take precautionary measures.
Doctors must be aggressive in treating patients, he added.