Blood pressure rates rising globally, study finds

Dive Brief:

  • Globally, the rate of systolic blood pressure rose substantially in the last quarter century, according to a study published in today’s issue of JAMA.
  • The number of disability-adjusted life-years and deaths associated with SBP — the maximum pressure the heart exerts to pump blood through the body — also increased between 1990 and 2015.
  • SBP is associated with a host of serious health conditions, including chronic kidney disease, ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases.

Dive Insight:

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation analyzed 844 studies from 154 countries. SBP of at least 110 to 115 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) was linked to more than 10 million deaths and more than 212 million DALYs in 2015, up 1.4-fold from 1990 — making it the leading contributor to preventable death worldwide.

The majority of those deaths were due to ischemic heart disease (4.9 million), hemorrhagic stroke (2 million) and ischemic stroke (1.5 million), the study says.

“These estimates are concerning given that in 2015, an estimated 3.5 billion individuals had an SBP level of at least 110 to 115 mm Hg,” the research team writes. They note that the global obesity epidemic could push SBP rates even higher.

China, India, Russia, Indonesia and the U.S. accounted for more than half of all SBP-related DALYs.

“Both the projected number and prevalence rate of SBP of at least 110 to115 mm Hg are likely to continue globally,” the authors write. “These findings support increased efforts to control the burden of SBP of at least 110 to 115 mm Hg to reduce disease burden.”

A study published last summer in Circulation found that in 2010, nearly a third (31%) of adults worldwide had high blood pressure. Of those, 75% lived in low- and middle-income countries, suggesting that where one lives can determine their health risks.

The University of Washington analysis suggests a more conservative SBP number for healthy outcomes than the 120 mm Hg or lower usually recommended. Results from the NIH-sponsored Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, published in November 2015, showed that an SBP of less than 120 mm Hg reduced rates of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular events by 25%.

Filed Under: Practice Management
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