Unsafe food and hypertension 

| Updated: June 14, 2022 22:20:15

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Notwithstanding repeated warnings about hypertension at seminars, view-exchanges programme, workshops etc., the focus continues to shift from the chief feature. Over the last couple of decades, Bangladesh has witnessed a number of high-profile colloquiums on the now-common malady of hypertension. Those meets have graphically exposed its link to the habitual consumption of unsafe food, meaning edibles containing saturated fat. Participants at a recent webinar have once again underscored the need for taking safe food in order to cut down on the risks of hypertension, high blood pressure in common parlance. To the health-conscious segments of people in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world, hypertension has been recognised as the roots of scores of health maladies. As had been expected, health experts at the webinar emphasised the importance of safe food in coping with hypertension. The conclusion was prompted by the imperative of tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  

They are dominated by hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. The webinar marked the World Food Safety Day-2022 on June 7, observed in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world. The theme of the day was 'Safer food, better health'. The research and advocacy platform Knowledge for Progress in collaboration with Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) organised the exchange of views. 

For Bangladesh, the webinar couldn't have been more urgent, and timelier. When it comes to taking 'unsafe' food, Bangladesh could, lately, be placed in a leading place. It's because consumption of unsafe food is prompting the country to witness an exponential rise in the prevalence of NCDs and related mortality. The speakers at the webinar observed that at present one in every five, coming to 21 per cent, adults in Bangladesh were suffering from hypertension. It was largely blamed on unhealthy food intake. Coming to widespread prevalence of NCDs, Bangladesh's ground reality includes new generations hooked on 'fast food' or 'junk food'. 

As years wear on, more and more urban teenagers and youths are found picking the habit of skipping conventional meals. As an alternative, they throng the bustling fast food joints in the capital and other cities, the foods comprising deeply fried meat-and-bread items oozing fatty substances and layered with cheese and mayonnaise. The extent to which these foods have won over the youths could be made out from the crowds thronging even the semi-urban fast food shops. Obesity is a preliminary sign of future health complications created by these hazardous 'smart foods'. 

The webinar speakers haven't failed to remind its audiences that hypertension causes increased risks of cardiovascular diseases. An estimated 277, 000 people die of cardiovascular diseases every year in the country. A surprising aspect of the situation is half of the women and two-thirds of men are not even aware of their being hypertension cases, experts observed. As has been reiterated at the webinar, Bangladesh has pledged to achieve the target for NCD prevention by 2025, and the goals for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The scourge of hypertension has emerged as a major hindrance to the achievement of these goals and targets. According to the data of the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2019, hypertension is one of the three major risk factors for death and disability in Bangladesh. It's also true hypertension has long been associated with the urban rich. But the latest finding that people in general are equally vulnerable to it warrants further research. Could it be then that food habit is not the only culprit? 


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