Study: Nearly a third of the world's population has high blood pressure

Dive Brief:

  • A study published on Tuesday in scholarly journal Circulation found in 2010, 31.5% of adults worldwide (1.39 billion individuals) had hypertension.
  • Of those individuals, approximately 75% of such adults (1,04 billion) live in low- and middle-income countries, the authors stated.
  • The authors concluded, "Global hypertension disparities are large and increasing. Collaborative efforts are urgently needed to combat the emerging hypertension burden in low- and middle-income countries."

Dive Insight:

The authors reviewed MEDLINE from 1995 through 2014 and included 135 population-based studies of 968,419 adults from 90 countries. 

The study found from 2000 to 2010 hypertension prevalence decreased by 2.6% in high-income countries but increased by 7.7% in low- and middle-income countries. The results are somewhat surprising; this is the first time the prevalence of hypertension in low- and middle-income countries surpassed that in high-income countries, the authors stated.

As STAT's Morning Rounds note, hypertension rates falling in higher-income countries as they rise in lower-income countries in a recent trend. "The researchers speculate that wealthy countries have been able to prevent and control more cases of hypertension, while healthcare systems in other nations might be overburdened or lacking the resources to keep the problem in check," STAT's Megan Thielking wrote.

The results back up this year's speech from Dr. David Nash, founding dean of Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson College of Public Health in Philadelphia at the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) 65th Annual Scientific Session & Expo. “Your zipcode is your healthcare destiny,” Nash said. 

Nash stated that an individual's location may be more important than genetics. For example, using public data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Nash during his speech shared different life expectancies in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area based on location. The data show individuals in both Montgomery and Fairfax counties on average live to be 84 years old while those in the district proper on average live to be 77 years old.

The authors of the Circulation study found there were disparities not just in hypertension prevalence but also in awareness, treatment, and control.   

"The high and increasing worldwide burden of hypertension is a major global health challenge because it increases morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular and kidney diseases and financial costs to society," the authors concluded. "Implementation of innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable programs for hypertension prevention and control should be a public health priority for these [low- and middle-income] countries."

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