Project launched to screen 1m adults for hypertension across Pakistan in a year

By M. Waqar Bhatti
May 23, 2024
This representational image shows a healthcare worker checking the blood pressure of a patient. — Unsplash/File

Around 18 percent of Pakistani teenagers aged 15 years and above are suffering from high blood pressure due to sedentary lifestyles, obesity, high salt intake, tobacco consumption, gaming addiction, and use of social media leading to physical inactivity, leading health experts warned on Tuesday.


Similarly, about 46 percent of adults aged 18 and above have raised blood pressure, contributing to the burden of cardiovascular diseases in the country, health experts said, adding that this condition is prevalent due to factors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, and high stress levels.

“Physical inactivity, consumption of junk and processed food containing high sodium, and consuming nine grams of salt per day in addition to smoking, vaping, and chewing tobacco are some of the leading causes of hypertension among Pakistani youth these days. Unfortunately, youngsters and adults are not aware that they have elevated blood pressure, which is silently damaging their blood vessels and vital organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and eyes, leading them to death,” a renowned health expert and general secretary of the Pakistan Society of Internal Medicine (PSIM), Dr Somia Iqtidar, told a news conference in Karachi.

The press conference was organized in connection with the launch of the Discovering Hypertension project, a CSR initiative of pharmaceutical firm PharmEvo in collaboration with five leading medical societies to screen 1 million people for hypertension by June 30, 2025, across Pakistan at 500 sites in the country.

All those found to be hypertensive during this period across Pakistan would be linked to 100 specialized clinics for the management and treatment of this lifestyle disease, the Discovering Hypertension project organizers vowed.

A renowned neurologist and president of the Neurology Awareness and Research Foundation (NARF), Prof Muhammad Wasey, said hypertension or high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke in Pakistan, which claims over 400,000 lives annually in the country. He termed air pollution, the highest per capita consumption of oil, the use of tobacco, in addition to high salt intake and physical inactivity, as leading causes of hypertension in Pakistan.

Urging the authorities to promote preventive measures, Prof Wasey encouraged people to eat simple food with low sodium, walk at least 40 minutes daily, avoid consuming processed foods and sugary drinks, and avoid smoking, vaping, and consuming tobacco in all its forms.

“Air pollution is one of the causes of hypertension and resulting cardiac disease and stroke in Pakistan. Among children, the use of tobacco in the form of vaping and gaming addiction, which results in physical inactivity, are two major causes of elevated blood pressure,” he maintained.

President Pakistan Hypertension League (PHL) Prof. Nawaz Lashari and Prof Fawad Farooq, general secretary of the Pakistan Cardiac Society (PCS), highlighted the impact of lifestyle choices, such as unhealthy diets and lack of exercise, on the increasing prevalence of hypertension and related cardiovascular diseases. They emphasized that these lifestyle diseases, if not addressed, could lead to a significant rise in mortality and morbidity in Pakistan in the coming years.

A known actress and brand ambassador of the ‘Discovering Hypertension’ project, Aamina Sheikh, said she was surprised and scared to learn about the damage caused by high blood pressure to the human body and vowed to use her influence to promote preventive measures, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity, to live a disease-free life.

Project Director Discovering Hypertension and Deputy Chief Executive Officer PharmEvo Syed Jamshed Ahmed said they have launched the project to screen around 1 million people for hypertension. In this regard, blood pressure screening facilities would be made available at 500 sites across Pakistan.

“And the people who would be found hypertensive would be linked to 100 clinics throughout the country for the management and treatment of hypertension,” Syed Jamshed Ahmed said, adding that the theme of the project was “check, change, and control”.

“We want to create awareness about hypertension, educate those who are at risk of having hypertension to change their lifestyle, and connect chronic patients with physicians to prevent them from having cardiac disease, stroke, and other ailments,” he added.

Managing Director PharmEvo Haroon Qasim said they were striving for a healthy society and Discovering Hypertension was part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for the betterment of society.

Several other health experts, including lifestyle medicine expert from Islamabad, Dr Shagufta Feroz and Dr Masood Jawed, also spoke. A large number of cardiologists, family physicians, diabetologists, and medical students were also present.