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Global Health: Older, Fatter Brazil Battles Rising Blood Pressure

Rates of high blood pressure are particularly high for the growing numbers of older Brazilians. More than half of those over 55 suffer from the condition, also referred to as 'hypertension.' Among the causes is the high amounts of salt i

Growing older in Curitiba, Brazil (Adam Jones)
Growing older in Curitiba, Brazil (Adam Jones)

BRASILIA More than half of Brazilians over 55 suffer from high blood pressure, according to a major new national health survey."This data shows how high blood pressure has become a main health issue in this new Brazil, which has more elderly and obese people than before," says Brazil's Minister of Health Alexandre Padilha.

High blood pressure, also referred to as "hypertension," leads to a greater risk of heart attack, kidney problems and stroke, main causes of death in Brazil.

High blood pressure is a problem for 5.4% of 18-to-24-year-old population, 50.5% of 55 to 64 years old and 59.7% of over 65 year old. Among all ages, 22.7% have high blood pressure, slightly below the 2010 rate of 23.3%.

Women in all age groups have more problems of high blood pressure. Less-educated people are also more likely to suffer from the condition, with some 35% of women who went to school for fewer than eight years with high blood pressure – more than twice (14.2%) of those with 12 years or more of education.

The Ministery of Health has launched several initiatives to lower the high blood pressure rates among the population, including an agreement with food companies to reduce the amount of sodium in their products. "By 2014, we want less than 4,000 tons of sodium in industrialized goods," says Padilha.

According to Luiz Bortolotto, a cardiologist at the Heart Institute of Sao Paulo, even those being treated for hypertension treatment consume excessive amounts of salt in their daily meals. Bread and ready-made seasoning are the main sources of sodium in the current Brazilian diet.

Bortolotto's advice for reducing the daily consuption of salt? Read your labels.

Read more from Folha de S. Paulo

Photo - Adam Jones

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The Pope's Health Feeds Succession Rumors — And Deeper Questions About The Church

It is not only the health of the Pope that worries the Holy See. From the collapse of vocations to the conservative wind in the USA, there are many ills to face.

Photograph of Pope Francis holding his hand against his forehead.

October 4, 2023 - Pope Francis concelebrates the Holy Mass with the new Cardinals at the Vatican

Evandro Inetti/ZUMA
Gianluigi Nuzzi

Updated Dec. 4, 2023 at 6:05 p.m.

ROME — "How am I? I'm fine... I'm still alive, you know? See, I'm not dead!"

With a dose of irony and sarcasm, Pope Francis addressed those who'd paid him a visit this past week as he battled a new lung inflammation, and the antibiotic cycles and extra rest he still must stick with on strict doctors' orders.

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The Pope is dealing with a sensitive respiratory system; the distressed tracheo-bronchial tree can cause asthmatic reactions, with the breathlessness in his speech being the most obvious symptom. Tired eyes and dark circles mark his swollen face. A sense of unease and bewilderment pervades and only diminishes when the doctors restate their optimism about his general state of wellness.

"The pope's ailments? Nothing compared to the health of the Church," quips a priest very close to the Holy Father. "The Church is much worse off, marked by chronic ailments and seasonal illnesses."

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