Heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases are responsible for half of all deaths in Slovakia. High blood pressure is the most common chronic cardiovascular disease. Almost half of the adult Slovak population suffers from it. And because it doesn’t hurt, only half of people know there’s something wrong with their pressure.
Important factors in the development of hypertension include a bad lifestyle – stress, obesity, smoking and lack of exercise. It is estimated that 25 percent of deaths over the age of 40 are caused by this disease. One of the reasons for this sad statistic is the fact that high blood pressure in the initial stages has almost no symptoms.
“Research from Slovakia, but also from other transforming countries, shows that there has been a decrease in cardiovascular mortality. However, it is not as we would like. When we went deeper into the research, we found that the group in which we are least successful in controlling risk factors are men between the ages of 35 and 50. In all other indicators, for example, cholesterol, treatment of heart attacks, heart failure, there was an improvement. Blood pressure control in men of productive age is worse, and we think that this is one of the reasons why the decrease in cardiovascular mortality in Slovakia is not as obvious as in neighboring countries,” says associate professor Eva Gonçalvesová, head of the Cardiology Clinic of the Faculty of Medicine of the Comenius University and the National Institute of Heart and Vascular Diseases in Bratislava.
High pressure does not hurt. It is worse if there are complications associated with it. And they can manifest immediately or even ten or twenty years later. “We don’t want to ‘terrorize’ young men to measure their blood pressure all the time, it’s enough if they do so at least once a year and if their blood pressure is higher, they start to solve this situation with a doctor until their blood pressure is in the target values below 130/ 80mmHg. And it is not enough for the pressure to reach these values, it must remain there. It means that for some this treatment can be lifelong,” says associate professor Gonçalvesová.
Men usually do not measure their blood pressure at home if they do not go to the doctor. Possible symptoms, such as insomnia or headache, are attributed to stress. “Hypertension in men of working age is related to the fact that, as a population, we generally have little movement and more stressful occupations and situations. And it’s not just situational hypertension, but fluctuations in blood pressure that can develop into arterial hypertension,” says Dr. Anna Vachulová, president of the Slovak Society of Hypertension.
If a man has untreated high blood pressure at a young age, the threat of a myocardial infarction at an older age increases. In addition, Slovakia has the shortest healthy life expectancy among European countries. So people are healthy only up to a certain age, and then one disease after another “sticks” to them. So we lack a community of healthy retirees, and that’s because we neglect our health at a younger age. And the age at which this unfavorable situation can change is precisely the age category of 35 to 50 years.
“When a patient comes to us with severe shortness of breath, chest pain, or swelling, he usually has already developed complications, which can also mean serious damage to the heart. It might not have gotten to this point if the patient had measured his blood pressure a year or two ago and started treating the elevated values in time. Nothing is lost even if complications already appear, but they require further treatment, while arterial hypertension could perhaps be treated with a fixed dose of combined drugs and non-pharmacological treatment,” added Dr. Anna Vachulová.
In order to adjust the pressure values, it is necessary to follow the treatment and change the lifestyle. Among the many things that help, the most important are a change in diet, not smoking and more exercise.