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Warning on global blood pressure rates

Wednesday November 16th, 2016

The incidence of high blood pressure has nearly doubled in the last 40 years globally, researchers say today.

The analysis by Imperial College, London, finds relatively low rates in the UK and USA - but growing rates in many poor countries.

Professor Majid Ezzati and colleagues at Imperial College London, UK, report their findings in The Lancet saying it is "the leading global risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and chronic kidney disease."

They add: "One of the global non-communicable disease targets adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2013 is to lower the prevalence of raised blood pressure by 25% compared with its 2010 level by 2025."

The British Heart Foundation said the findings were "shocking."

The researchers say consistent global information is needed to understand how countries compare on blood pressure levels and trends, so the team looked at 1,479 studies on a national, subnational, or community level in 200 countries. This covered 19.1 million adults in total.

Results showed that blood pressure has dropped sharply in high-income countries, but risen in many low and middle-income countries, especially those in east and southeast Asia, south Asia, Oceania, and sub-Saharan Africa.

The European country with the lowest proportion of people with high blood pressure in 2015 was the UK, with South Korea, USA and Canada being the lowest in the world.

"The number of adults with raised blood pressure increased from 594 million in 1975 to 1.13 billion in 2015, with the increase largely in low-income and middle-income countries," the team reports. This net global increase is due to population growth and ageing, they state.

Professor Ezzati said: "High blood pressure is no longer related to affluence, but is now a major health issue linked with poverty." In high-income countries earlier diagnosis and better medication have helped counteract rising obesity, which is a high blood pressure risk factor.

Julie Ward, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "There are 16 million people living with high blood pressure in the UK alone but it’s clear this is a global problem that is a major cause of heart attacks and strokes around the world.

“These findings remind us that people living in deprived areas are at a much greater risk of having high blood pressure. And we remain greatly concerned that almost half of all people with high blood pressure in the UK are unaware of their condition and remain undiagnosed."

NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Worldwide trends in blood pressure from 1975 to 2015: a pooled analysis of 1479 population-based measurement studies with 19.1 million participants. The Lancet 15 November 2016; doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31919-5 [abstract]

Tags: Heart Health | UK News | World Health

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