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Hypertension cases rose by 47.4% in 40 years, says WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported a 47.4 per cent rise in blood pressure measurements, from nearly 20 million people all over the world, in 40 years.

The results of the largest ever study of its kind, which involved the WHO and hundreds of scientists throughout the world, found that the number of adults with raised blood pressure increased from 594 million in 1975 to 1·13 billion in 2015, with the increase largely in low-income and middle-income countries.

According to the study published yesterday in The Lancet, “high blood pressure is no longer a disease of affluent countries. Today, the worst affected countries are those in sub-Saharan Africa – the same countries that continue to battle high child and maternal mortality, as well as Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).”

The researchers found that in 2015, central and eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and south Asia had the highest blood pressure levels and a higher mean blood pressure in men than in women, especially in pre-menopause ages.

“Raised blood pressure is an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and chronic kidney disease. We estimated worldwide trends in mean systolic and mean diastolic blood pressure, and the prevalence of, and number of people with, raised blood pressure, defined as systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher,” they said.

According to the study, these populations have low consumption of fresh fruits and, in many cases, high consumption of salt. It noted that South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the highest prevalence of maternal under-nutrition, preterm and small-for-gestational age births, and child under-nutrition; they have also had some of the smallest gains in adult height, which is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. “Many cases of raised blood pressure go untreated in these regions.”

The researchers said the absence of these favourable determinants of low blood pressure, coupled with rising body-mass index, might be causing the increase in mean blood pressure in these regions.

They, therefore, said if governments and multinational organisations are to address the large and inequitable burden of cardiovascular diseases and kidney disease associated with high blood pressure, they need to take a multifaceted approach using both population-based strategies throughout the life course and individual lifestyle management and treatment through primary care systems.


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