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32.2m adults suffering from high blood pressure in Pakistan: WHO

By M. Waqar Bhatti
September 20, 2023

ISLAMABAD: As many as 32.2 million adult population has been suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure in Pakistan, a first-ever report on hypertension by the World Health Organization (WHO) stated on Tuesday.

The global report on hypertension titled “The race against a silent killer” said of the 32.2m adult hypertensive people, only 44 percent are diagnosed, including 34 percent men and 54 percent women. Only 35 percent are receiving treatment while only 11 percent have controlled hypertension (8 percent men, 14 percent women).

The WHO report said daily salt consumption per capita is 9 grams while 21 percent people are smokers, including 34 percent males and 8 percent females as per 2019 data. The report pointed out that 34 percent Pakistani population is physically inactive as per 2016 data.

The report highlighted that around 450,000 people died of cardiovascular disease in Pakistan in 2019, of which 58 percent deaths were attributed to high blood pressure. The report deplored that Pakistan lacked treatment guidelines for management of hypertension while it also lacked national target for blood pressure.

The country has no national target for salt consumption while it also lacked any functioning system for generating reliable cause-specific mortality data on a routine basis, added the report.

“In order to achieve a 50 percent control rate, 12.5 million more people with hypertension would need to be effectively treated. If the progress scenario were achieved, around 839,000 deaths would be averted by 2040,” the report suggested.

On international level, as per the WHO report, those living with hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher or taking medication for hypertension) were doubled between 1990 and 2019, from 650 million to 1.3 billion.

Nearly half of people with hypertension globally are currently unaware of their condition while more than three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low and middle-income countries.

The report showed approximately 4 out of every 5 people with hypertension are not adequately treated, but if countries can scale up coverage, 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050.

Hypertension affects 1 in 3 adults worldwide. This common, deadly condition leads to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and many other health problems.

Older age and genetics can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, but modifiable risk factors such as eating high-salt diet, not being physically active and drinking too much alcohol can also increase the risk of hypertension.

Lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and being more active can help lower blood pressure. Some people may need medicines that can control hypertension effectively and prevent related complications.

The prevention, early detection and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care and should be prioritized by countries as part of their national health benefit package offered at a primary care level.

“Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The report is being launched during the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which addresses progress for the sustainable development goals including health goals on pandemic preparedness and response, ending tuberculosis and attaining universal health coverage.