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Number of people with hypertension doubles between 1990 and 2019


Elevating hypertension treatment rates to those of high-performing countries by 2050 could prevent 76 million deaths, 120 million strokes, 79 million heart attacks, and 17 million cases of heart failure

The number of people living with hypertension doubled from 650 million to 1.3 billion between 1990 and 2019, the first-ever report on the condition released by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals. 

 “Nearly half of 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,” the report says.

According to the report, approximately 4 out of every 5 people with hypertension are not adequately treated.  But if countries can scale up coverage, 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050, the reports adds.

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.

Old 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.

The prevention, early detection and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective interventions in healthcare and should be prioritized by countries as part of their national health benefit package offered at a primary care level. The economic benefits of improved hypertension treatment programmes outweigh the costs by about 18 to 1.

“Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it.” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said. “Hypertension control programmes remain neglected, under-prioritized 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.”

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.

“Most heart attacks and strokes in the world today can be prevented with affordable, safe, accessible medicines and other interventions, such as sodium reduction,”  WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries Michael R. Bloomberg said. “Treating hypertension through primary health care will save lives, while also saving billions of dollars a year.”

The report calls for importance of implementing WHO-recommended effective hypertension care to save lives, which include the following five components:

  • Practical dose-and drug-specific treatment protocols with specific action steps for managing uncontrolled blood pressure can streamline care and improve adherence.
  • Regular, uninterrupted access to affordable medication is necessary for effective hypertension treatment; currently, prices for essential anti-hypertensive medicines vary by more than ten-fold between countries.
  • Patient outcomes improve when a team collaborates to adjust and intensify blood pressure medication regimens per doctor orders and protocols.
  • To reduce barriers to care by providing easy-to-take medication regimens, free medications and close-to-home follow-up visits, and making blood pressure monitoring readily available.
  • Information systems: user-centred, simple information systems facilitate rapid recording of essential patient-level data, reduce health care worker data entry burden, and support rapid scale-up while maintaining or improving the quality of care.

 “Every hour, more than 1 000 people die from strokes and heart attacks. Most of these deaths are caused by high blood pressure, and most could have been prevented,” Dr Tom Frieden, President & CEO, Resolve to Save Lives, said. “Good hypertension care is affordable, within reach, and strengthens primary health care. The challenge now is to go from “within reach” to “reached.” This will require commitment of governments around the world.”

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