Number of people with high blood pressure doubled in 30 years

PARIS • The number of people living with high blood pressure has more than doubled since 1990, according to a major study published yesterday that found half of all sufferers - about 720 million people - went untreated in 2019.

Hypertension is directly linked to more than 8.5 million deaths each year, and is the leading risk factor for stroke, heart and liver disease.

To find out how rates of hypertension have developed globally over the past 30 years, an international team from Non-Communicable Disease Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) analysed data from more than 1,200 national studies covering nearly every country in the world.

They used modelling to estimate high blood pressure rates across populations, as well as the number of people taking medication for the condition.

The analysis found that in 2019, there were 626 million women and 652 million men living with hypertension. This represented roughly double the estimated 331 million women and 317 million men with the condition in 1990.

The analysis found that 41 per cent of women and 51 per cent of men with high blood pressure were unaware of their condition, meaning hundreds of millions of people were missing out on effective treatment. "Despite medical and pharmacological advances over decades, global progress in hypertension management has been slow, and the vast majority of people with hypertension remain untreated," said Dr Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London and senior study author.

In the analysis, published in The Lancet medical journal, Canada and Peru had the lowest proportion of high blood pressure among adults in 2019, with around one in four people living with the condition.

Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Spain and Britain were among the places that had the lowest hypertension rates in women - less than 24 per cent - while Eritrea, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and the Solomon Islands had the lowest rates in men at less than 25 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum, more than half of women in Paraguay and Tuvalu had hypertension, while over half of men in Argentina, Paraguay and Tajikistan also have the condition, the analysis showed.

Fewer than one in four women and one in five men globally are being treated for their condition.

Professor of cardiology Robert Storey at the University of Sheffield said Covid-19 had distracted governments from the reality of hypertension.

"The pandemic of cardiovascular disease has received less attention in the last 18 months, but reflects concerning worldwide trends in unhealthy lifestyle choices such as high fat, sugar, salt and alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyles with avoidance of exercise, and smoking," said Prof Storey, who was not involved in the study.

"It is essential that best practice in government policy is adopted by all countries in order to avoid a time bomb of heart disease and stroke."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2021, with the headline Number of people with high blood pressure doubled in 30 years. Subscribe