On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its first-ever report on the extensive global impact of high blood pressure, as well as recommendations on how to combat this silent but devastating health issue. The report highlighted that half of individuals with hypertension are unaware of their condition, and roughly four out of every five people with high blood pressure do not receive adequate treatment.
Furthermore, the report indicated that by increasing coverage of hypertension management, it is possible to prevent 76 million deaths between 2023 and 2050. According to the WHO report, hypertension affects one in three adults globally and can lead to severe health problems such as stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney damage.
The report also noted a significant increase in the number of people living with hypertension, doubling from 650 million in 1990 to 1.3 billion in 2019. Alarmingly, nearly half of those affected worldwide are unaware of their condition, with over three-quarters of adults with hypertension residing in low- and middle-income countries.
While factors like older age and genetics can elevate the risk of hypertension, modifiable risk factors such as a high-salt diet, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol consumption also contribute to its development. The report emphasized the importance of lifestyle changes like adopting a healthier diet, quitting tobacco use, and increasing physical activity to lower blood pressure. In some cases, medications may be necessary to effectively manage hypertension and prevent associated complications.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed concern over the fact that only one in five individuals with hypertension have it under control. He stressed that hypertension control programs are underfunded and neglected and called for their prioritization as part of national health benefit packages, particularly at the primary care level.
The report, launched during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, addresses progress towards Sustainable Development Goals, including those related to health. It highlights that better prevention and control of hypertension are crucial for progress in these areas. Achieving levels of hypertension treatment seen in high-performing countries could prevent millions of deaths, strokes, heart attacks, and cases of heart failure by 2050.
Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries, underscored the preventability of most heart attacks and strokes through affordable, accessible medications and interventions like sodium reduction. He emphasized that treating hypertension through primary health care can save lives and billions of dollars annually.
Dr. Tom Frieden, President & CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, stressed the urgency of addressing high blood pressure, as thousands of people die from related strokes and heart attacks every hour. He called for global commitment to implementing effective hypertension care, particularly within the framework of robust primary health care systems.
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