A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the dangerous effects of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Hypertension is identified as one of the world’s leading risk factors for death and disability. WHO’s report brings attention to the need for strategies to combat this “silent killer.”
Hypertension affects 1 in 3 adults worldwide, characterized by a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher. This condition often leads to other health problems such as stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney damage. Unfortunately, only about one in five individuals with hypertension have it under control.
To address this issue, WHO recommends implementing comprehensive national hypertension treatment programs, similar to the successful initiatives in Canada and South Korea. These programs have achieved over 50% blood pressure control in adults with hypertension. If more people could effectively manage their hypertension, an estimated 76 million deaths could be prevented between 2023 and 2030.
The report also highlights preventive measures, including maintaining a healthy diet, weight, and lifestyle choices. Strategies such as reducing sodium intake play a crucial role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. WHO recommends consuming less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day, yet the global average intake exceeds this recommendation at 10.8 grams per day.
Although countries pledged to reduce sodium intake by 30% by 2025, only 5% have implemented comprehensive sodium-reduction policies. In the United States, where hypertension affects around 32% of individuals between the ages of 30 and 79, steps such as mandatory sodium policies and clear labeling on pre-packaged foods have been taken but more needs to be done.
Effectively controlling hypertension could potentially avert 1.2 million deaths in the US by 2040. However, this would require treating an additional 693,000 individuals with hypertension. The costs associated with hypertension and its complications are substantial, impacting patients, healthcare systems, and national economies worldwide.
It is crucial for governments around the world to commit to affordable and accessible hypertension care. By prioritizing primary healthcare and preventative measures, the global impact of high blood pressure can be significantly reduced.