In a recent report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the devastating global impact of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, takes the spotlight.
The report reveals that; 1 in 3 adults worldwide struggle with hypertension, a deadly condition that can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and other health problems.
Perhaps the most concerning revelation is that approximately 4 out of 5 people with hypertension are not adequately treated.
Between 1990 and 2019, the number of people with hypertension doubled from 650 million to an astounding 1.3 billion. Over three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low and middle-income nations.
Surprisingly, approximately half of these people are unaware of their illness.
People with very high blood pressure (usually 180/120 or higher) can experience symptoms including; severe headaches, chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, or other vision changes, anxiety, confusion, buzzing in the ears, nosebleeds, abnormal heart rhythm.
While factors like ageing and genetics play a role in the risk of hypertension, modifiable risk factors like overeating salty food (high salt diet), lack of physical activity and excessive alcohol consumption contribute significantly to its prevalence.
The report demonstrates from an economic perspective, the benefits of improved hypertension treatment programs far outweigh the costs, with an expected return of 18 to 1.
It further addresses important health goals, such as pandemic preparedness, eradicating tuberculosis, and achieving Universal Health Coverage. It is timed to coincide with the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The report stresses the importance of lifestyle changes such as eating healthier, quitting tobacco and being more physically active to combat high blood pressure.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, emphasized the urgent need for action, stating, “Hypertension control programmes remain neglected, under-prioritised and vastly underfunded.”
He called for incorporating hypertension management into universal health coverage and primary care services.
The report details that between now and 2050, 76 million deaths, 120 million strokes, 79 million heart attacks, and 17 million occurrences of heart failure could be prevented.
If the number of patients receiving adequate treatment for hypertension rose to the levels seen in high-performing countries.
Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries, wraps it all up, stating, “Most heart attacks and strokes in the world today can be prevented with affordable, safe, accessible medicines and other interventions.”
“Treating hypertension through primary health care will save lives, ‘He adds’.
This global silent killer, lurking sight unseen, remains a deathly threat.