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Tobacco consumption and hypertension increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease

Within the framework of World No Tobacco Day, PAHO/WHO warns that these two risk factors cause the most deaths in the region.

Washington, D.C., 5 June 2013 (PAHO/WHO) – Tobacco consumption increases the risk of death of people who have high blood pressure. Within the framework of World No Tobacco Day, held every 31 May, the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) urges total bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship in the Americas to help reduce tobacco consumption, and calls for further efforts toward blood pressure control.

In the Americas, 30% of the population over the age of 18 suffers from hypertension, and 21% of those over the age of 15 are smokers. Combined, these two risk factors increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for 30% of all deaths in the Americas.

“Many of the risks of hypertension can be reduced by controlling blood pressure. If smoking cessation is also pursued, the risk of cardiovascular disease can be reduced even further”, noted Adriana Blanco, PAHO/WHO’s regional tobacco control advisor.

Smoking is responsible for 16% of all deaths of people over the age of 30 in the Americas, which corresponds to 1 million deaths each year. Alongside Europe, the region has the highest percentage of deaths attributable to tobacco—12% above the global average.

“It is essential that countries implement all measures contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This year, we are stressing one such measure in particular: a total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, which is one of the most effective ways to reduce consumption of tobacco,” said Blanco. To date, only five countries in the Americas have implemented such measures: Panama (2008), Colombia (2009), Brazil (2011, but regulations are pending), Chile (2013), and Suriname (in June 2013). Others have broad restrictions, and the rest have minimal or no restrictions at all.

High blood pressure, in turn, increases the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, and chronic kidney failure. In the Americas, cardiovascular diseases cause 1.9 million deaths each year and are the leading cause of death in the majority of the countries of the region.

“Tobacco and hypertension make for a lethal combination. Tobacco cessation contributes to a significant reduction in the number of deaths from heart attack and stroke”, said Pedro Ordúñez, PAHO/WHO advisor on noncommunicable diseases.

“People who are diagnosed with hypertension can be treated and controlled long-term, which significantly improves the likelihood of a long, healthy, and productive life”, added Ordúñez. “Everyone has a role to play in helping prevent and control this disease. Measures that help reduce tobacco consumption are also measures that help reduce and control high pressure”, he stressed.

In addition to avoiding tobacco consumption, hypertension can also be prevented by eating less salt (particularly in processed foods), following a balanced and healthy diet, engaging in physical activity regularly, and avoiding harmful alcohol consumption.

This year’s World Health Day—which is held every 7 April—was dedicated to the risks of hypertension. PAHO/WHO issued a call for people to know their blood pressure numbers and adopt measures to prevent and control hypertension.

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