A latest United Nations (UN) report revealed that the potential to avert ten million deaths worldwide hinges on addressing the pervasive issue of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
The extensive report delves into the critical implications of high blood pressure on global health.
Hypertension, often symptomless and lurking in the shadows, has earned the grim moniker of ‘the silent killer,’ as the patient does not know what ails him.
Alarming data reveals that approximately one-third of adults worldwide are affected, with a staggering 48% prevalence among adults in the United States alone.
The UN report sheds light on the fact that high blood pressure is a leading contributor to mortality and disability, underscoring its role in elevating the risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and kidney problems.
It surpasses smoking and high blood sugar as a global cause of death.
According to the report, the number of people grappling with hypertension has doubled from 650 million in 1990 to a staggering 1.3 billion in 2019. Equally concerning is the finding that nearly half of these individuals are unaware of their condition, highlighting the need for increased awareness and regular blood pressure screenings.
The UN report offers a glimmer of hope, estimating that by 2050, proactive management of high blood pressure could prevent around 76 million deaths, along with 120 million strokes, 79 million heart attacks, and 17 million cases of heart failure.
In response, the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls for immediate prioritisation of prevention, early detection, and effective management at the primary care level. The WHO underscored that these efforts constitute some of the most cost-effective interventions in healthcare.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, stresses the importance of strengthening hypertension control as an integral part of the journey towards universal health coverage. Such efforts should be based on well-functioning, equitable, and resilient health systems grounded in primary healthcare.
Hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher and can be categorised into primary (ageing or lifestyle-related) and secondary (resulting from existing conditions or medications).
Certain risk factors, including age, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, alcohol consumption, and ethnicity, contribute to the development of high blood pressure. A diet low in sodium and high in potassium can also reduce the risk.
Fortunately, many individuals can manage their blood pressure through lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and stress management.
Medications, including diuretics and beta-blockers, can complement these efforts to control blood pressure and mitigate its potentially deadly consequences.