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Hypertension among people doubles to 1.28 billion globally, 700 M cases untreated

Hypertension among people doubles to 1.28 billion globally, 700 M cases untreated

The number of people leaving with hypertension in the world increased from 650 million to 1.28 billion, a 15 percent representation of entire world population of about 7.6 billion people.

A huge percentage of this population are adults aged between 30 to 79 years.

This is according to the first comprehensive global analysis of trends in hypertension prevalence, detection, treatment and control, led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation (WHO) report published on August 25.

The study, conducted by a global network of physicians and researchers, covered the period 1990–2019.

Over 100 million people aged 30–79 years in 184 countries were sampled, together covering 99 percent of the global population, which makes it the most comprehensive review of global trends in hypertension to date.

According to the sturdy, the rate of hypertension has decreased in wealthy countries – which now typically have some of the lowest rates but has increased in many low- or middle-income countries.

Canada, Peru and Switzerland had among the lowest prevalence of hypertension in the world in 2019, while some of the highest rates were seen in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Paraguay for women and Hungary, Paraguay and Poland for men.

Although the percent of people who have hypertension has changed little since 1990, WHO reports that the the number of people with hypertension doubled to 1.28 billion. This was primarily due to population growth and ageing.

In 2019, the sudy shows over one billion people with hypertension, representing 82 percent of all people with hypertension in the world lived in low- and middle-income countries.

Significant gaps in diagnosis and treatment

About 580 million people with hypertension where 41 percent are women whereas 51 are men were unaware of their condition because they were never diagnosed. 

The study also indicated that more than 720 million people (53% of women and 62% of men) with hypertension were not receiving the treatment that they need.

“Nearly half a century after we started treating hypertension, which is easy to diagnose and treat with low-cost medicines, it is a public health failure that so many of the people with high blood pressure in the world are still not getting the treatment they need,” said Professor Majid Ezzati, senior author of the study and Professor of Global Environmental Health at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.

Men and women in Canada, Iceland and the Republic of Korea were most likely to receive medication to effectively treat and control their hypertension, with more than 70 percent of those with hypertension receiving treatment in 2019.

Comparatively, men and women in sub-Saharan Africa, central, south and south-east Asia, and Pacific Island nations are the least likely to be receiving hypertension medication, with treatment rates ranging below 25 percent for women, and 20 percent for men.

WHO said a number of countries in these regions created a massive global inequity in treatment for the condition..

“Although hypertension treatment and control rates have improved in most countries since 1990, there has been little change in much of sub-Saharan Africa and Pacific Island nations.  International funders and national governments need to prioritize global treatment equity for this major global health risk,” said Dr Bin Zhou, a research fellow at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the analysis.

WHO guideline for hypertension treatment

Dr Taskeen Khan, of WHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases, who led the guideline development, said: “The new global guideline on the treatment of hypertension, the first in 20 years, provides the most current and relevant evidence-based guidance on the initiation of medicines for hypertension in adults.”

The recommendations cover the level of blood pressure to start medication, what type of medicine or combination of medicines to use, the target blood pressure level, and how often to have follow-up checks on blood pressure.

In addition, the guideline provides the basis for how physicians and other health workers can contribute to improving hypertension detection and management.

“The need to better manage hypertension cannot be exaggerated. By following the recommendations in this new guideline, increasing and improving access to blood pressure medication, identifying and treating comorbidities such as diabetes and pre-existing heart disease, promoting healthier diets and regular physical activity, and more strictly controlling tobacco products, countries will be able to save lives and reduce public health expenditures,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of WHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases.

Hypertension is a human condition which increases the risk of heart, brain and kidney diseases.It is one of the top causes of death and disease throughout the world.

It can be easily detected through measuring blood pressure, at home or in a health centre, and can often be treated effectively with medications that are low cost.

Most people with hypertension have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels.

A few people may have headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until it has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

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Lawrence Baraza is a prolific writer with competencies in Digital Media, Print, and Broadcast. Baraza is also a Communication Practitioner currently spearheading Digital content on Metropol TV's Digital Desk.

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