The World Health Organization (WHO) has unveiled its inaugural report on the widespread impact of high blood pressure, offering recommendations to combat this silent threat. The report reveals that around 4 out of 5 people with hypertension are not adequately treated, yet scaling up coverage could prevent 76 million deaths between 2023 and 2050.
Hypertension affects 1 in 3 adults globally, leading to severe health issues such as stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney damage. The number of individuals with hypertension doubled from 650 million to 1.3 billion between 1990 and 2019, with almost half remaining unaware of their condition. Over three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.
While factors like older age and genetics contribute to high blood pressure risk, modifiable factors such as a high-salt diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption also play a role. Lifestyle changes, including a healthier diet, tobacco cessation, and increased physical activity, can help lower blood pressure. Some individuals may require medications to control hypertension effectively.
The prevention, early detection, and effective management of hypertension rank among the most cost-effective healthcare interventions. The economic benefits of enhanced hypertension treatment programs outweigh the costs by approximately 18 to 1.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, emphasizes the need to prioritize strengthening hypertension control as part of countries’ journeys toward universal health coverage. The report was presented during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, addressing progress in health goals and the importance of hypertension control for pandemic preparedness, ending tuberculosis, and achieving Universal Health Coverage.
Scaling up the number of patients effectively treated for hypertension, similar to high-performing countries, could prevent 76 million deaths, 120 million strokes, 79 million heart attacks, and 17 million cases of heart failure by 2050.
Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, underscores the role of affordable, safe, and accessible medications in preventing heart attacks and strokes. WHO’s HEARTS program provides practical steps for delivering effective hypertension care in primary healthcare settings.
Several low- and middle-income countries, including Bangladesh, Cuba, India, and Sri Lanka, have strengthened their hypertension care with the HEARTS package, enrolling over 17 million people. Canada and South Korea have successfully implemented national hypertension treatment programs, achieving over 50% blood pressure control in adults with hypertension.
The report emphasizes the five key components of effective hypertension care: practical treatment protocols, regular access to affordable medication, team-based care, patient-centered services, and user-friendly information systems. Implementing WHO-recommended hypertension care is crucial for saving lives globally.