The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded the alarm on the global impact of high blood pressure, with 1 in 3 adults affected worldwide. Shockingly, approximately 4 out of 5 people with hypertension aren't receiving adequate treatment. However, a new report suggests that scaling up treatment coverage could avert a staggering 76 million deaths between 2023 and 2050.
Hypertension, often referred to as a "silent killer," is linked to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage, and other serious health problems. The number of people with hypertension doubled between 1990 and 2019, reaching 1.3 billion, with almost half unaware of their condition.
While older age and genetics play a role, modifiable risk factors like high-salt diets, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption are contributing to the hypertension epidemic. Lifestyle changes, such as adopting healthier diets, quitting tobacco, and staying physically active, can help lower blood pressure. In some cases, medication may be necessary.
The report emphasises the cost-effectiveness of preventing, detecting, and managing hypertension. Improved hypertension treatment programs can yield economic benefits that outweigh the costs by a factor of 18 to 1. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the need to prioritise hypertension control as part of universal health coverage.
During the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, where health goals are being addressed, the report highlights that better hypertension prevention and control are essential to achieving these goals.
Treating hypertension is achievable with affordable medications and interventions like sodium reduction. Programs such as HEARTS offer practical steps to provide effective hypertension care in primary health care settings. Several countries, including Canada and South Korea, have successfully implemented national hypertension treatment programs, leading to significant blood pressure control.
The report underscores the importance of WHO-recommended hypertension care, emphasising five key components: treatment protocols, medication and equipment supply, team-based care, patient-centred services, and information systems.