Thu | Jul 28, 2016

Hypertension the leading cause of death

Published:Thursday | January 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dr Knox Hagley

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

"Overall, when we look at total mortality, the leading cause of death worldwide is uncontrolled hypertension. The second leading cause of death worldwide is tobacco smoking related," Dr Knox Hagley shared with The Gleaner, recently.

As chairman of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control, he has been instrumental in supporting efforts by the Ministry of Health to educate Jamaicans about the ills of smoking tobacco; for those who engage directly in this habit, as well as persons affected by second-hand smoke.

The World Health Organisation estimated that by the end of 2013 the 'tobacco epidemic' would have accounted for eight million deaths across the globe.

In 50 years as a medical doctor, Hagley has had a close-up, first-hand view of the damage to individuals and families caused by nicotine addition and there is no upside as far as he is concerned.

None of the immediate, short-term pleasures associated with tobacco smoking are worth the potential health risks, according to Hagley, who is particularly concerned about the real health threat to non-smokers or passive smokers.

He explained: "People over a period of time will inhale smoke from the cigarette of people exhaling it. They are also prone to similar diseases and in recent years, we have found that children in homes where cigarette smoking occurs are more likely to develop an inflammation of the middle ear and that sometimes leads to deafness."

Women who smoke as hard as men will have the same problems but in addition, they will experience reduction in fertility.

In addition, when a smoking woman becomes pregnant she is at risk of spontaneous abortion, or death of the foetus within her (intrauterine death) and even when she does carry the foetus to full term the child will likely display problems associated with its mother's smoking during pregnancy.

"If you look at 100 such foetuses you will find that there are changes in the mental development of the child. When they get to school what is found is that they are not able to keep up with their peers because there is some mental deficiency," Dr Hagley disclosed.