First WHO report details the devastating impact of hypertension

National Cancer Institute 0brh8nlxv0m Unsplash
A patient taking a blood pressure test (photo: courtesy of National Cancer Institute)

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its first-ever report on the devastating global impact of high blood pressure, along with recommendations on the ways to win the race against this silent killer. The report shows that approximately four out of every five people with hypertension are not adequately treated, but if countries can scale up coverage, 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050. Hypertension affects one in three adults worldwide.  This common, deadly condition leads to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and many other health problems.

The number of people living with hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher or taking medication for hypertension) doubled between 1990 and 2019, from 650 million to 1.3 billion. Nearly half of people with hypertension, globally, are unaware of their condition. More than three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.

Lifestyle changes like following a healthier diet, quitting tobacco smoking and being more active can help to lower blood pressure. Some people may need medicines that can control hypertension effectively and prevent related complications. The prevention, early detection and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care and should be prioritized by countries as part of their national health benefit package offered at a primary care level. The economic benefits of improved hypertension treatment programmes outweigh the costs by about 18 to one.

“Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it”. Said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “Hypertension control programmes remain neglected, under prioritized and vastly underfunded. Strengthening hypertension control must be part of every country’s journey towards universal health coverage, based on well-functioning, equitable and resilient health systems, built on a foundation of primary health care”.

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