By Milcah Tanimu
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its first-ever report on the global impact of high blood pressure, revealing that approximately one in three adults worldwide is affected by hypertension. This condition, often referred to as high blood pressure, can lead to serious health problems, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage, and more. The report also highlights the critical issue that nearly four out of every five people with hypertension are not adequately treated.
Key findings from the report include:
1. **Global Prevalence**: The report shows that hypertension affects one in three adults worldwide. Between 1990 and 2019, the number of people living with hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher or taking medication for hypertension) doubled from 650 million to 1.3 billion.
2. **Lack of Awareness**: Nearly half of people with hypertension globally are currently unaware of their condition. This lack of awareness poses a significant health risk.
3. **High-Risk Factors**: While older age and genetics can increase the risk of high blood pressure, modifiable risk factors such as consuming a high-salt diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to hypertension.
4. **Treatment Gap**: Only about one in five people with hypertension have it under control. This treatment gap underscores the need for better awareness, diagnosis, and management of hypertension.
The report emphasizes that lifestyle changes, including adopting a healthier diet, quitting tobacco, and increasing physical activity, can help lower blood pressure. Additionally, some individuals may require medication to effectively control hypertension and prevent related complications.
Economically, the report reveals that the benefits of improved hypertension treatment programs far outweigh the costs, with an 18-to-1 return on investment. However, the report also highlights the neglect, under-prioritization, and underfunding of hypertension control programs globally.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, stressed the importance of strengthening hypertension control as part of each country’s journey toward universal health coverage. This involves building well-functioning, equitable, and resilient health systems with a primary health care foundation.
The report’s release coincides with the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, where progress toward Sustainable Development Goals, including health goals, is being addressed. Better prevention and control of hypertension are seen as essential components of progress in these areas, particularly regarding universal health coverage and non-communicable disease prevention.
Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, emphasized that many heart attacks and strokes can be prevented with affordable, safe, and accessible interventions, including medication and sodium reduction. Treating hypertension through primary health care can save lives and billions of dollars annually.