Taking steps to understand and reduce your risk could make a life-saving difference.

Hypertension is called the ‘silent killer’ because it can be present without symptoms or discomfort. Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects an estimated one in three adults worldwide. Over time it can damage blood vessels and lead to serious health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and other health issues.1

Our recent report found cardiovascular disease is a top cost driver across multiple industries in MAXIS GBN claims data.

It’s World Hypertension Day on 17 May, and given the impact this silent killer could be having on your people's health and your medical claims costs, we want to tell you a bit more about hypertension and highlight a few steps that we can all can take to reduce the risk of developing it.

1. Hypertension risk factors

Hypertension can be symptomless and easily missed, which is why it’s important to know your risk factors and get your blood pressure checked regularly. Risk factors include:

  • having a family history of high blood pressure
  • being aged over 65
  • having co-existing diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease
  • being overweight or obese
  • being physically inactive
  • drinking too much alcohol or smoking tobacco
  • genetic factors including ethnicity
  • stress
  • living in a socially deprived area
  • eating too much salt and not enough fruits and vegetables.2

2. Hypertension symptoms

Although high blood pressure can be hard to spot, it’s helpful to be aware of the key symptoms. These can include blurred vision, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and headaches.3

3. Pass on the salt

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of us eat far too much salt, which is a major risk factor for hypertension. The WHO recommends adults limit sodium intake to less than five grams of salt a day (just under a teaspoon) but the average person in most countries consumes more than double that amount.You may think your salt intake is low because you’re careful about how much you sprinkle on your meals. But sodium can be hiding where you least expect it – such as in ready-made meals, sauces and baked goods – so always check food labels.

Reduce sodium intake by:

  • eating mostly fresh foods
  • choosing low-sodium products
  • reducing the amount of sodium/salt you add to cooking
  • choosing herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour food
  • limiting the use of commercial sauces, dressings and instant products
  • limiting the consumption of processed foods
  • removing the salt shaker from your table.4

4. Exercise

Physical activity is a well-established effective tool for improving cardiovascular health, so it’s important you find a type of movement you enjoy and stick with it. Experts recommend you do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as active sports, running, swimming or cycling a week (or do 75 minutes at higher intensity), and aim to be active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.5 If you’re at risk of hypertension or already live with high blood pressure it’s important that you take expert advice on making safe exercise plans.6

5. The stress link

Stress can certainly cause your blood pressure to spike, but it hasn’t been proven to directly cause heart attacks or strokes.7 However, stress is still linked to increased circulatory and cardiovascular diseases, because it can cause sleep loss and influence people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco and eating junk food.8 These behaviours can potentially impact efforts to make lifestyle choices that improve blood pressure and general heart health. So, this why it’s important to address causes of stress in your life, and find activities, ways of thinking and support networks that can you help cope with them.

6. Sedentary lifestyles

Getting your blood flowing is not only about sweating it out at the gym. Many of us will spend huge portions of our lives watching television or sitting at a desk for long periods at work. A sedentary lifestyle has not been proven to directly cause hypertension, but it can increase your risk of related heart and circulatory diseases if fatty materials build up in your arteries – so it’s important to move around and get your blood circulating.9

If your job involves a lot of sitting, finding ways to move – whether it’s by taking screen breaks, stretching, taking a ‘walking meeting’ or going to the kitchen to make a healthy drink or snack – can help break up long periods of inactivity. And it might just help you with your work and hobbies, too… studies have found simply going for a walk can help boost creativity!10

The theme for this year’s World Hypertension Day is: ‘Measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer.’ So, make sure you get your blood pressure checked and think about the lifestyle changes you could make to reduce your hypertension risk!

If you would like to run an awareness campaign in your workplace to help educate your employees about hypertension, contact your local MAXIS GBN representative or email [email protected] to request our educational toolkit with ready to use campaign materials.

Find out more about our educational toolkits

[1] Anon. World Health Organization (September 19, 2023) First WHO report details devastating impact of hypertension and ways to stop it (Sourced: April 2024)

[2] Anon. NHS. High blood pressure (hypertension) (Sourced: April 2024)

[3] Anon. British Heart Foundation. High blood pressure - symptoms and treatment (Sourced: April 2024)

[4] Anon. World Health Organization. Sodium reduction (Sourced: April 2024)

[5] Mayo Clinic Staff. Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure (Sourced: April 2024)

[6] Bhatt, D.L. (August 1, 2021) Strength training and blood pressure. Harvard Health Publishing (Sourced: May 2024)

[7] Anon. Mayo Clinic. Stress and high blood pressure: What's the connection? (Sourced: April 2024)

[8] Anon. British Heart Foundation. Stress (Sourced: April 2024)

[9] Anon. British Heart Foundation. Physical inactivity (Sourced: April 2024)

[10] Wong, M. (April 24, 2014) Stanford News. Stanford study finds walking improves creativity (Sourced: April 2024)

This article has been prepared by MAXIS GBN S.A.S. and is for informational purposes only – it does not constitute advice.  MAXIS GBN S.A.S has made every effort to ensure that the information contained in this presentation has been obtained from reliable sources but cannot guarantee accuracy or completeness.  MAXIS GBN S.A.S is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of the information contained in this presentation.  This presentation should not be copied, distributed or reproduced in whole or in part.  [Not all services are available from all MAXIS member insurance companies or to all clients. The services are subject to local market practices, and compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements.] If you have any questions in relation to this presentation or otherwise, please contact [email protected]