The World Health Organisation (WHO) has 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 the disease.
The report made available on Tuesday showed approximately four out of every five people with hypertension are not adequately treated.
It said that if countries could scale up coverage, 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050.
According to the report, hypertension affects one in three adults worldwide, as the 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 the 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.
“Older age and genetics can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, but modifiable risk factors such as eating high-salt diet, not being physically active and drinking too much alcohol can also increase the risk of hypertension.
“Lifestyle changes like 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,” it said.
It said that 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 report said that the economic benefits of improved hypertension treatment programmes outweigh the costs by about 18 to one.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, says “Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it.
“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.”
Ghebreyesus said that the report was launched during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
According to him, the assembly addresses progress for the Sustainable Development Goals including health goals on pandemic preparedness and response, ending tuberculosis and attaining Universal Health Coverage.
“Better prevention and control of hypertension will be essential to progress in all of these.
“An increase in the number of patients effectively treated for hypertension to levels observed in high-performing countries could prevent 76 million deaths, 120 million strokes, 79 million heart attacks, and 17 million cases of heart failure between now and 2050,” he said.
Mr Michael Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries,. said that most heart attacks and strokes in the world today can be prevented with affordable, safe, accessible medicines.
“Treating hypertension through primary health care will save lives, while also saving billions of dollars a year,” Bloomberg said.