Health & Wellness

Blood pressure and heart disease – a Bermudian killer

Control your indulgences to stay healthier
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Bermudians love to drink, so the popular song observes about our paradise island lifestyle.

We also enjoy things like cheeseburgers and fried chicken at summer barbecues, taking cigarette breaks at work and recuperating after a long day by sitting on the couch watching TV.

The stark statistics, sadly, underline how these enduring habits put us in the line of fire for major health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

At least one-third of the adult population in Bermuda, including more than 70 per cent of seniors, suffers from blood pressure, also known as hypertension; and more than half of adult-age deaths on the island are a result of cardiovascular disease, or heart disease. 

Joe Yammine, a consultant cardiologist at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said: “Lifestyle plays a significant role in hypertension and cardiovascular diseases in Bermuda.

“Changing habits can be difficult due to factors like lack of motivation, limited access to healthy food options, busy schedules and a culture that values indulgence.”

The top causes of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases are genetics, high sodium intake, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and psychosocial stress.

“These factors are often interrelated, with obesity being a significant contributor to both hypertension and cardiovascular diseases,” Dr Yammine said.

“Obesity in Bermuda may be linked to local dietary habits and a high-income economy, leading to increased consumption of processed foods and sedentary jobs.

“The best ways to prevent hypertension and cardiovascular diseases involve adopting a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet low in sodium and fat, managing stress, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.”

Other preventive measures include regular health screenings, monitoring blood pressure and managing underlying conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol.

Each risk factor can be minimised:


In Bermuda, 24 per cent of adults are classed as obese, compared with the international average of 18 per cent.

Excess fat tissue can cause problems for your nervous system, hormones and organs which combine to increase your blood pressure. It can also cause fatty material to build up in your arteries, potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke.

To lose weight you need to consistently burn more calories than you eat, either by eating less, exercising more or ideally both. Grab that cheeseburger at the Friday night barbecue by all means but go for an extra run the next day instead of spending your whole Saturday on the couch.


Drinking alcohol can cause your blood vessels to become narrower, which can cause hypertension. This in turn puts a strain on your heart muscle and increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Alcohol also contains calories which can add up to weight gain and obesity.

Avoid binge drinking, which means consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time; and avoid heavy drinking, which means consuming alcohol consistently throughout the week.

If you’re wondering how many glasses of wine you can get away with during happy hour in Hamilton, here are some definitions from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Binge drinking: four drinks within two hours for women; and five drinks within two hours for men.
  • Heavy alcohol use: three drinks a day for women; or four drinks for men.
  • Moderate drinking: up to one drink a day for women; or two drinks for men.

One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.


Smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels and makes the arteries narrower. This means your blood is more likely to clot and you’re more susceptible to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.

The health benefits kick in the moment you stop smoking. Seek support from your family and friends, as well as your GP, because that will increase your chances of success.


Too much salt causes your body to retain fluid, which increases the fluid volume of your blood and can lead to hypertension.

Cook low-sodium recipes at home, avoid processed foods and remove that salt shaker from your dining table.


We often share high blood pressure and heart disease issues with our families. Sometimes this is because of genetics, but it can also be a result of shared environmental risks, such as low-income or poor access to education.

Check out your family health history and discuss any concerns with your doctor.


When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones which cause the heart to beat faster and the blood vessels to narrow. This can increase your blood pressure.

Stress is an inevitable part of modern life, but you can let go of tension by going for a walk, swim, jog or riding a bike. Don’t deal with your stress by reaching for a glass of wine or pint of beer!


Warning signs
Hypertension is known as the silent killer because it is asymptomatic.
“This can make diagnosis and treatment challenging, as individuals may be unaware of their condition,” Dr Yammine said. “Regular blood pressure screenings are crucial for early detection.”

Symptoms of cardiovascular diseases include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations, lightheadedness, fatigue and swelling of the leg.



As well as lifestyle changes, medicine can help.

If you’ve got high blood pressure, your GP may prescribe diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers.

Cardiovascular diseases may require statins, aspirin, anticoagulants, but can also be treated with procedures such as angioplasty, stent placement or bypass surgery; and cardiac rehabilitation.


Creating a healthier future for Bermuda
Dr Yammine said the rate of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in Bermuda can be reduced through education, supportive environments and policies that promote healthier choices and lifestyle changes.

“It is important to recognise the significant impact of social determinants on hypertension and cardiovascular health,” he said.

“Socioeconomic status, education, access to healthcare and cultural norms all influence individuals’ risk factors and ability to manage these conditions.

“A comprehensive approach that considers these broader factors and engages communities, policymakers and healthcare providers is crucial for effectively addressing hypertension and cardiovascular diseases in Bermuda.”

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