WHO releases its first-ever report on global impact of high BP, states approximately four in every five not treated adequately

The WHO report states that hypertension affects one in three adults worldwide. 

Updated - September 19, 2023 06:02 pm IST

Published - September 19, 2023 03:13 pm IST - NEW DELHI 

Image used for representational purpose.

Image used for representational purpose. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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, noted the World Health Organization (WHO) in its first-ever report on the global impact of high blood pressure on Tuesday. 

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Hypertension is the most important risk factor for death and disability in India, according to a paper in The Lancet, regional health (South-east Asia), published late last year. It adds that less than one-fourth of hypertensive patients in India had their blood pressure under control during 2016–2020, though this rate has improved compared to previous years, substantial differences exist across regions.

It also states that the 2019–2020 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) reported a hypertension prevalence of 24% in men and 21% among women, an increase from 19% and 17% respectively from the previous round (2015–16). India runs the India Hypertension Control Initiative programme which is a large-scale hypertension intervention under the National Health Mission and has been recognised for its positive work done within the country’s existing primary healthcare system. 

The WHO report states that 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 currently unaware of their condition. More than three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.

Recommending ways to win the race against this silent killer, the world organisation states that lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and being more active can help lower blood pressure. Some people may need medicines that can control hypertension effectively and prevent related complications. 

Early detection, effective management

“Prevention, early detection and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care and should be prioritised 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 1,” notes the WHO. 

“Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement, adding that hypertension control programmes remain neglected, under-prioritised 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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