The number of people living with hypertension has more than doubled since 1990, rising from an estimated 331 million women and 317 million men in 1990, to 626 million women and 652 million men in 2019. This is according to a global study published on Monday.
The international study, published in The Lancet, analysed blood pressure measurements from more than 100 million people taken over 30 years in 184 countries.
High blood pressure is directly linked to more than 8.5 million deaths worldwide each year and is the leading risk factor for stroke, ischaemic heart disease, other vascular diseases and renal disease.
The study was conducted by an international team from the Non-Communicable Disease Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) who analysed data from more than 1 200 national studies covering nearly every country in the world.
“Despite medical and pharmacological advances over decades, global progress in hypertension management has been slow. The vast majority of people with hypertension remain untreated, with large disadvantages in low- and middle-income countries,” says Professor Majid Ezzati of the Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, senior author of the study.
Hypertension is a time bomb
The authors of the research said there was an urgent need to boost high blood pressure diagnosis and access to treatment.
Fewer than one in four women and one in five men globally are being treated for their condition.
There has been little change in low-medium income countries (LMICs) in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, Nepal and Indonesia where less than a quarter of women and less than a fifth of men with hypertension were being treated in 2019. Fewer than 10% had well controlled blood pressure.
“Low detection and treatment rates that persist in the world’s poorest nations, coupled with the rising number of people who have hypertension, will shift an increasing share of the burden of vascular and kidney diseases to sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and south Asia,” warns co-author Leanne Riley from the World Health Organization in Switzerland.
“Improving the capacity of these countries to detect and treat hypertension as part of primary healthcare and universal health coverage must be accelerated,” she added.
Robert Storey, is professor of cardiology at the University of Sheffield in the UK, said Covid-19 had distracted governments from the reality of hypertension.
Storey told Associated Press that, “The pandemic of cardiovascular disease has received less attention in the last 18 months but reflects concerning worldwide trends in unhealthy lifestyle choices such as high fat, sugar, salt and alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyles with avoidance of exercise and smoking,” said Storey, who was not involved in Wednesday’s study.
“It is essential that best practice in government policy is adopted by all countries in order to avoid a time bomb of heart disease and stroke.”