Chronic hypertension is prevalent in elderly war refugees

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CJ / Kantarawaddy District (M)

A new report says that 65 out of 100 elderly refugees (internally-displaced people, or IDPs) in Hpruso Township of Karenni State have chronic hypertension or elevated blood pressure. One of the main underlying causes is the stress of the wartime situation, the physical insecurity, living in the jungle, the lack of employment and inability to tend their farms, and food insecurity, according to Tun Shwewa, a health practitioner serving the refugees.

As a case in point, 75-year-old war evacuee U Wiyei was found to have high blood pressure during a recent health check in his camp. He said he is taking care of his health by using the method of heating a stone in a fire and using it to rub his body, with mineral oil and saffron.

“My blood pressure is the same. But when I came here, it gets worse every now and then. Last year, I thought it was because of the cold, so I warmed myself with stones. The legs always need warming. Even if the sun is hot, there are some people whose feet are cold. If the sun is a little hot and warms up, it helps the blood to circulate normally. I have to avoid staying in the jungle like this all the time. It doesn’t happen that much in the village,” U Wiyei said.

Tun Shwewa said that the need for health services is increasing among those who have fled the war, and that during the winter season, people with high blood pressure can be at risk of stroke.

Hypertension is a chronic disease that is treated with medication and lifestyle modifications. U Wiyei said it is difficult to get rid of, so he has to take the medicine given by the health practitioner regularly.

“When it’s cold in the winter, people do less physical activity, and because of their diet, the use of drugs also increases. Some start smoking,” says Tun Shwewa. “There are also people who drink because of the cold. Alcohol and tobacco also influence high blood pressure.”

She added, “High blood pressure is not an infectious disease, but it is influenced by lack of physical activity, obesity, or smoking, it is a disease that occurs as a consequence of long-term living an inconsistent lifestyle with high consumption of alcohol and salt in the diet. Hypertension causes shortness of breath while sleeping, kidney disease, heart conditions, adrenal gland abnormalities, and stroke.”

According to medical literature, additional health effects may occur, including kidney failure, as well as changes in eyesight or blindness.

Diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung and respiratory disease, and mental health problems are non-communicable diseases, and 68 percent of deaths in Myanmar are due to these diseases, according to health statistics collected in 2016, quoted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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