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Age Demands Action on Health in Serbia

25 Apr 2013

An older man in Serbia has his blood pressure checked. (c) Serbian Red Cross We marked World Health Day in Serbia by using the slogan “Are you under pressure? Arterial hypertension; from prevention to rehabilitation“.

Serbia is part of a group of countries where the risk of hypertension is above the European average. According to statistics, hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disorder and is responsible for 50% of all cardiovascular illnesses. Approximately 47% of Serbian adults suffer from hypertension and cardiovascular illness is the cause of 54% of all deaths in Serbia.

The silent killer

Hypertension is also referred to as the silent killer. Many people do not pay attention to their blood pressure until they are older, discover they have been suffering from hypertension for years and, as a result, their quality of living has diminished.

All activities related to prevention and sensitisation of older people to hypertension started in March, at the Belgrade Spring Health Festival. This event brings together all stakeholders promoting health and healthy lifestyles and has a huge number of visitors. The question asked by many was: “How do we protect ourselves against hypertension?”

Older people were given the opportunity to listen to renowned cardiologists and get advice from them on preventing hypertension. Over the two day festival, some 10,000 people received free health check-ups and had their blood pressure measured.

In addition to participating in the Spring Health Festival, the Red Cross of Serbia and HumanaS network organised many activities across the country, including explaining to older people the importance of healthy habits in preventing hypertension.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle

It is estimated that a third of all women and a quarter of all mean in Serbia smoke and that 68% of the population do not exercise enough. This is why we have emphasised through our events the importance of physical exercise and the need to make it part of people’s daily routine.

A 62-year-old yoga instructor also gave a free yoga class to 100 older Red Cross volunteers, which was a huge success. To raise more awareness of healthy eating, lectures focusing on healthy food were organised with a nutritionist with suggestions of weekly healthy menus.

Being aware that older people in urban areas have better access to health institutions, we wanted to reach out to more rural areas where access to medical services is worse. This is why we set up a partnership with the Army which will run until the end of the year. The scheme will help early discovery and prevention of not just hypertension but other illnesses, too.

Also organised was the annual older people’s Olympic Games. More than 7,000 older people from across the country took part in different preventive activities, lectures and health check-ups.

Hypertension also affects young people

Being aware that hypertension also affects younger generations and awareness needs to be raised early, we also engaged with younger people. We organised blood pressure measuring for students and staff of the Law School of the Belgrade University. The turnout was very high and the result took everyone by surprise.

Out of 77 students who had their blood pressure measured, 32 had readings higher than 130/80. The volunteer physician who oversaw the measuring and provided advice to the students was surprised with the results and encouraged students and staff to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

To end on a positive note, here is a poem that was written by Red Cross volunteers that were read out at one of our events:

Third age

Even though it is the third age
The walks, the talks, the writing
Make the desire to live stronger
There is more love to go around
I have no time to let
Hypertension and depression knock me to the ground

(Slavka Kostic, aged 80)

Read more about Age Demands Action on Health around the world and new data on hypertension in older people.

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Author profile

Natasa Todorovic
Country: Serbia
Job title: Health and Care Program Manager

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