Strokes, heart attacks leading cause of death in Saint Lucia

Dr. Shana Cyr-Philbert
Dr. Shana Cyr-Philbert

Strokes and heart attacks continue to be the leading cause of death in Saint Lucia, whilst an estimated one in three adults have high blood pressure, a report from the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs revealed yesterday.

The statistics were shared on World Hypertension Day by Dr. Shana Cyr-Philbert the Ministry of Health’s Senior Medical Officer for Non-Communicable Diseases.

World Hypertension Day is observed annually on May 17, to raise awareness and promote prevention, detection, and control.

Appealing to Saint Lucians to measure their blood pressure regularly and document results, Dr. Cyr-Philbert affirmed that hypertension or high blood pressure is a “silent killer” and a serious medical condition.

“Many people with high blood pressure may not have any symptoms for a while. The lack of symptoms from high blood pressure causes it to be particularly dangerous and worldwide fewer than half of the people who have high blood pressure know it, while only one in five people with high blood pressure actually have it under control,” she said.

Dr. Cyr-Philbert further noted that when measuring blood pressure, measurements must be done following the appropriate technique, using a validated blood pressure monitor.

“Persons are encouraged to contact the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards to verify whether the blood pressure monitor being used or purchased is validated. Blood pressure monitors which are not validated can give inaccurate readings and lead to dangerous consequences,” she explained.

According to Dr. Cyr-Philbert, high blood pressure is the most common preventable cause of conditions such as strokes and heart attacks. High blood pressure control therefore is paramount, as controlled high blood pressure results in significantly fewer deaths, disabilities, and events such as heart attacks and strokes.

“High blood pressure also causes people to die at a younger age,” she said.

“It can be controlled by changes in one’s lifestyle. Lifestyle changes include reducing mental stress, weight loss if overweight or obese, not smoking, reducing alcohol intake, increasing levels of physical activity, and consuming diets which include lots of fruits and vegetables but (are) low in sodium and unhealthy fats,” Dr. Cyr-Philbert stated, adding that it can also be controlled with prescribed medicines called anti-hypertensives.

However, the doctor noted that many persons are concerned about taking anti-hypertensive medicines. Nonetheless, she explained, these medicines have proven to be very effective in lowering blood pressure and preventing complications and deaths from high blood pressure.

“If concerned about your medicines, talk to a health care professional. Early death, disease, and disability from high blood pressure can be avoided,” the non-communicable disease specialist said, whilst encouraging persons with high blood pressure or those at risk for high blood pressure, to visit their nearest wellness centre for blood pressure measurements and nutritional counselling or medical visits.

In 2019, Saint Lucia launched the HEARTS initiative in primary care clinics in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). HEARTS provides a comprehensive and strategic approach in improving awareness of high blood pressure, its accurate measurement, management, and control; World Hypertension Day 2022 was held under the theme “Measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer.”

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