The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050 if countries could scale up coverage of hypertension.
WHO disclosed this in its first-ever report on the devastating global impact of high blood pressure, adding that approximately four out of every five people with hypertension were not adequately treated.
According to the report, hypertension affects 1 in 3 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.”
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said Hypertension could 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”, he said.
Dr. Ghebreyesus said that the report was launched during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in which 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 added.
He said, “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 a 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.”
Dr. Ghebreyesus 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 1.
Similarly, WHO Global Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries, Mr. Michael Bloomberg said that most heart attacks and strokes in the world today could be prevented with affordable, safe, accessible medicines.
“Treating hypertension through primary health care will save lives, while also saving billions of dollars a year,” he said.