Community 4 minute read

May 17: World Hypertension Day

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that addressing wellness is a priority for sustainability.

In the midst of the struggle to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to address the effects of this disease, we must recognize more than ever the importance of taking care of our health and keeping it in optimal conditions, controlling those factors that can deteriorate it and adopting life habits that favor it.

With the pandemic, chronic non-communicable diseases (especially those of the circulatory system) have increased considerably, and have become the leading causes of death in Panama, accounting for more than 25% of all deaths in the country.

A combination of factors

In addition to the physical suffering, the pandemic increased the emotional pressure on people and increased overeating, but the combination of this with deep-rooted cultural customs led to a generalized increase. The intake of foods high in sodium (salt) and saturated fats took a heavy toll on the country’s population. In health analyses conducted in fiscal year 2021, a portion of the Canal’s workforce showed blood pressure levels above the recommended levels. This made it one of the initiatives for FY 2022, to follow up through periodic blood pressure assessments at health clinics, referral to specialist physicians if deemed necessary, and the use of promotional guidelines on blood pressure care and good nutrition.

Arterial hypertension is one of the chronic non-communicable diseases suffered by more than 33% of the adult Panamanian population and is one where the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the arteries, over time, is high enough to cause health problems, such as heart disease. Having high blood pressure for years without any symptoms and keeping it that way increases the risk of serious health problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected and, once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work to control it.

How do hypertension problems affect job performance?

The work environment is where the worker spends most of his or her daily time, and to stay productive, he or she needs to be present and feel good. Arterial hypertension is a disease that is usually asymptomatic; that is to say, on many occasions it occurs without symptoms, so maintaining uncontrolled blood pressure could cause serious health problems for a working person.

The age factor

One of the factors that affects the increase in blood pressure is precisely getting older. Hypertension does not give warning, it has few or no symptoms. This is exactly the factor that causes an event that triggers a crisis, sadly fatal in some cases. Age should not be an excuse for poor health. While blood pressure levels increase with age, eating healthy and exercising, at least 30 minutes a day, help to maintain good health.

Internal measures

The Panama Canal maintains a health improvement program for the workforce, which groups different programs: medical evaluations, nutrition, job empowerment, corporate psychology (emotional support, alcohol and drugs), immunization, COVID-19 management, and physical conditioning. Promotion and awareness actions are important because we must insist on the importance of self-care.

Ruben Carrasco
Repairer of nautical machinery

Día Mundial de la Hipertensión - Revista El Faro - Canal de Panamá
Ruben Carrasco

I felt fine, I only had a slight discomfort in my head in the mornings. During one of the nurses’ visits to the workshop I found out that I had high blood pressure. I am seeing a doctor and I changed my diet. No sweets, no sodas. I want to be healthy because I am a year away from retirement and I want to enjoy my time in good health. I got used to coffee without sugar.

Roberto Delgado
Surplus Goods Sales Assistant

Día Mundial de la Hipertensión - Revista El Faro - Canal de Panamá
Roberto Delgado

For me it was a very intense event. I was at my desk on a very stressful day. My colleagues saw my red face and convinced me to go to the clinic. From there, I was hospitalized for 4 days. I thought so many things, especially about my daughter. Now with my doctor we realized that although I had no symptoms I had all the factors, and that distraction almost cost me my life.

Abdiel Sobers
Security guard, supervisor

Día Mundial de la Hipertensión - Revista El Faro - Canal de Panamá
Abdiel Sobers

I had no symptoms of any kind, but in one of the health check-ups at work I found out that my blood pressure was above normal. I was referred to a specialist, who made recommendations to change my lifestyle. I reduced my food portions and included more salads. The most important thing was to take care of my sleep, that made a big difference. I take it very seriously, I keep a written record of my data on a daily basis.

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