High Blood Pressure Rates Highest In South Africa
February 4, 2014

Hypertension In Low And Middle Income Nations

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

According to a new global study sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), South Africa has the highest rate of high blood pressure among people 50 years old and over for any country in the world.

Study researchers found that 78 percent of participants from South Africa tested positive for high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study was focused on the health of people in low- and middle-income nations – surveying over 35,000 people ages 50 and over in South Africa, China, Ghana, India, Mexico and Russia.

“In many countries public awareness about hypertension remains very low, and the condition is not prioritized by national governments or development agencies,” said study author Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, professor of social policy and international development at the University of East Anglia in England.

“Unless this changes quickly, avoidable deaths and disability resulting from hypertension are set to soar,” Lloyd-Sherlock continued. “Interventions should include awareness raising, prevention and treatment. Ideally, we should persuade people to adopt healthier diets and lifestyles, but in the short run we should at least ensure they have access to effective treatment.”

Those who participated in the WHO’s Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) were categorized as hypertensive in the event the average of two recordings was equivalent or above 140mmHg (systolic blood pressure) or 90mmHg (diastolic blood pressure), or if they were taking medication for hypertension. The rates of high blood pressure varied from 78 percent in South Africa to 32 percent in India, with persistently higher levels for women.

In all six countries, national incidence was strongly linked with age and weight. India attained the highest rate of treatment performance at 55 percent. The lowest rate of hypertension control was in Ghana at 4 percent and the lowest treatment success was in Russia with 17 percent. South Africa had the greatest rates for the ‘lifestyle’ risk factors of obesity, 45 percent, and low physical activity, 59 percent.

In South Africa the study included over 3,800 people. Only 38 percent of those who were positive for hypertension were aware of their condition. South African treatment was only effective in 24 percent of cases, though most people who were aware of their condition were on treatment. Modest awareness and ineffective treatment meant that only 8 percent of people with hypertension had their condition managed, compared to a rate of 14 percent in India, the highest of the six countries in the study. For less affluent people living in rural districts, rates of control were particularly low.

Writing an editorial in the same journal as his study, Lloyd-Sherlock and several co-authors argued that the response of most governments and international organizations to hypertension is not much better than the reaction to HIV/AIDS 20 years ago.

“At first sight, this seems a ridiculous, crassly attention-grabbing assertion. HIV infection is a sexually transmitted infectious disease; hypertension is neither of these things,” they wrote. “Yet, these two conditions have a number of important things in common.”

The authors noted that both diseases can be managed through a combination of drug treatments and lifestyle changes. They also said that the amount of deaths linked to the condition over the next 20 years may significantly exceed the number resulting from HIV/AIDS.