Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Hypertension, a condition in which one's blood pressure reading consistently exceeds 140/90 mm Hg, remains a worrying health problem in Indonesia. Hypertension prevalence is on the rise, and many patients are not taking their medications regularly, according to the Health Ministry.
The ministry's 2018 Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) revealed that the national hypertension prevalence among those aged 18 years and older had jumped from 25.8 percent in 2013 to 34.1 percent in 2018.
South Kalimantan recorded the highest hypertension prevalence in the country, reaching 44.13 percent and even topping the national average. Compared to other provinces, Papua had the lowest hypertension prevalence with 22.2 percent in 2018.
The same study showed that 91.2 percent of people with hypertension had not been diagnosed. Of the 8.8 percent diagnosed hypertensive people, only half took their medications on a regular basis.
Some 59.8 percent of the hypertensive patients who are not taking their medications think they are already in good shape. The reason is that hypertension is often asymptomatic. Other reasons for skipping hypertension meds include not visiting the healthcare facilities regularly (31.3 percent) and taking traditional medicine (14.5 percent). The study also reported that 8.1 percent could not afford the medicines.
"Many hypertensive people are skipping their medications because they do not experience any symptoms despite their blood pressure being high. So they think they are already healthy. [...] But if left [uncontrolled], hypertension can lead to complications such as stroke. It may also cause damage to the heart," Elvieda Sariwati, the acting director for noncommunicable diseases prevention and control, told a virtual media gathering on Thursday.
According to Elvieda, people with noncommunicable diseases tend to wait until complications arise before seeing a doctor.
"This is what makes it challenging. Only 3 out of 10 noncommunicable disease sufferers have [their condition] detected. The rest are unaware they are sick because noncommunicable disease usually shows no symptoms at first," Elvieda said.
"And only 1 of those 3 people are taking their medications regularly."
Healthy living and checkups
A healthier lifestyle and early detection are critical to hypertension response. In 2017, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo inked a presidential instruction on a healthy lifestyle campaign commonly known as "Gerakan Masyarakat Hidup Sehat" (Germas). The Germas campaign promotes an active lifestyle, healthy diet, regular check-ups, among others.
"Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. [...] Also lower your salt intake. About 55 percent of Indonesians eat more salt than the recommended level, and this can trigger hypertension," Elvieda said.
Elvieda added the government would also continue to raise awareness about the need for early detection of noncommunicable diseases.