Hypertension, often dubbed the “silent killer,” has emerged as a major global health crisis, with staggering statistics that demand immediate attention. Hypertension refers to high blood pressure, which often doesn’t show symptoms and can lead to serious heart disease, heart failure or a heart attack.
A comprehensive analysis led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed alarming trends in hypertension prevalence, detection, treatment, and control. This blog will aim to underscore the urgent need for global action to combat this silent but deadly condition.
Rising Prevalence of Hypertension Globally and Locally
The number of adults aged 30-79 years living with hypertension has doubled since 1990, reaching a staggering 1.28 billion individuals worldwide. In the UK specifically, an estimated 32% of adults living in private households had high blood pressure and 3 in 10 of those (29%) were undiagnosed; this equates to approximately 4.2 million adults with undiagnosed hypertension.
These startling statistics highlight the gravity of the issue and its significant impact on global health. Even more concerning is the fact that nearly half of these individuals were unaware of their hypertension, emphasizing the critical need for improved awareness and diagnosis.
Again, in the UK, adults who were the least likely to have hypertension (such as younger adults, those whose general health was good, and those who were not overweight or obese) were the most likely to be undiagnosed if they did have hypertension.
This shows that even those individuals who seem to be in good health are susceptible to cardiovascular disease.
Younger males with hypertension were particularly likely to be undiagnosed; 66% of males and 26% of females aged 16 to 24 years, and 55% of males and 44% of females aged 25 to 34 years who had hypertension were undiagnosed, compared with 17% of males and 21% of females aged 75 years and over.
Although younger adults with hypertension were proportionately more likely to be undiagnosed than older adults, the highest total estimated number of cases of undiagnosed hypertension in the population were among males aged 55 to 64 years and females aged 65 to 74 years (500,000 males and 460,000 females in the aforementioned age groups).
What happens when you have hypertension?
Hypertension significantly elevates the risk of heart disease, brain disease, and kidney disease, making it one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.
Sometimes, as a result of the excessive strain and damage from the high blood pressure, the coronary arteries (blood vessels) serving the heart gradually narrow due to plaque, an accumulation of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. This is called atherosclerosis. According to the American Heart Association, apart from atherosclerosis, hypertension can also lead to coronary heart disease (CHD).
Fortunately, hypertension is relatively easy to detect through blood pressure measurements, both at home and in healthcare settings. Moreover, it can often be managed effectively with low-cost medications.
Comprehensive Study on Hypertension
The analysis conducted by a global network of physicians and researchers spanned from 1990 to 2019 and involved data from over 100 million people aged 30-79 years in 184 countries, covering 99% of the global population.
This comprehensive review of hypertension trends revealed that while the overall rate of hypertension remained relatively stable, the burden shifted from wealthy nations to low- and middle-income countries. This shift highlights the need for tailored interventions in regions where risk factors for hypertension are on the rise.
In 2019, countries like Canada, Peru, and Switzerland boasted some of the lowest hypertension prevalence rates, while the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Paraguay, Hungary, Paraguay, and Poland recorded some of the highest rates. The geographic disparities underscore the complex nature of the hypertension crisis, where both wealth and geography play significant roles.
Treatment Gaps and Inequities:
Despite the availability of low-cost treatments, the study uncovered significant gaps in diagnosis and treatment. Shockingly, 580 million people with hypertension, including 41% of women and 51% of men, remained undiagnosed. More than half of those with hypertension, a total of 720 million individuals, were not receiving the necessary treatment. Moreover, blood pressure was controlled in fewer than 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men with hypertension, revealing a glaring inequity in treatment access.
Hopeful Progress in Middle-Income Countries:
Amid these challenges, some middle-income countries have successfully scaled up treatment efforts, achieving better treatment and control rates than most high-income nations. Countries like Costa Rica and Kazakhstan serve as beacons of progress in the fight against hypertension.
New WHO Guidelines:
To address this global health crisis, the WHO released new guidelines for the pharmacological treatment of hypertension in adults. These guidelines offer recommendations on medication initiation, types of medicines, target blood pressure levels, and follow-up checks. They also empower healthcare professionals to play a pivotal role in improving hypertension detection and management.
The WHO’s report emphasizes that approximately 4 out of every 5 people with hypertension are not adequately treated. However, it highlights the potential to avert 76 million deaths between 2023 and 2050 if countries can scale up hypertension treatment coverage.
Addressing Modifiable Risk Factors:
While genetics and aging contribute to hypertension risk, modifiable factors such as diet, physical activity, and alcohol consumption also play a crucial role. Lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure and reduce hypertension risk.
High cholesterol, high sugar diets are hard for your blood vessels to manage, eating a balanced diet is important as it can help you prevent high blood pressure and in turn prevent heart disease.
Of course, diet is not the only thing. Achieving the recommended amount of weekly exercise. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Guidelines recommend each week adults do:
- at least 150 minutes moderate intensity activity, 75 minutes’ vigorous activity, or a mixture of both
- strengthening activities on two days
- reducing extended periods of sitting
Combining these two lifestyle changes can help you reduce risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and more.
Prevention, early detection, and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective healthcare interventions. These should be prioritized by countries to improve public health and save resources.
This is why preventive health assessments are the way forward as they are able to look at an individuals health and determine based on imaging, scans and blood tests if there are any health issues – known or not.
Hypertension is a global health crisis that affects millions of lives, with dire consequences for heart, brain, and kidney health. The recent comprehensive analysis and WHO guidelines offer a roadmap to combat this silent epidemic, reduce disparities, and save countless lives.
It is incumbent upon nations, healthcare systems, and individuals to take action, prioritize hypertension care, and ensure access to affordable treatment. By doing so, we can win the race against this silent killer and improve global health outcomes for generations to come.
Hypertension and Heart Disease Detection with Echelon Health
Even though the aforementioned lifestyle factors can help you lower your risk of heart disease, it is impossible to totally prevent it. Anyone can develop heart disease, but it is more common in elderly people. There are therapies available if you have any form of heart disease that can enhance your quality of life and lower your risk of having a heart attack.
Finding heart issues at the earliest stage possible or perhaps averting an episode before it occurs is one of the most crucial criteria for a good prognosis. A health evaluation with your doctor will help you understand your health and identify strategies for managing or enhancing it.
The NHS provides regular health evaluations for both men and women starting at age 40, beginning with prostate and breast exams as necessary. Even while these checks are helpful, they are not customised for each individual. When it comes to health, Echelon Health holds that there is no “one size fits all” strategy, and we appreciate the need of early detection.
Using our vast medical experience and the best imaging technology available in the UK, we are determined to provide the most comprehensive health assessment possible. This covers heart disease, and our Healthy Heart package aims to detect various heart diseases at their earliest stages. It can help detect not only arrhythmia but also coronary heart disease and more. Here is what is included in our Healthy Heart assessment:
- Medical questionnaire
- Blood tests
- CT coronary angiogram
- Final consultation
Our Platinum Assessment is one of the most comprehensive in the world. Combining a thorough set of blood tests (over 40 parameters including cancer markers) and the best imaging technology available today through CT, MRI and ultrasound scans it can detect up to 92% and up to 95% of the causes of premature death among men and women respectively.
This package offers a full health screening; the following tests and scans are included in the platinum package:
- Blood Tests
- CT Aorta
- CT Heart
- CT Coronary Angiogram
- CT Chest
- CT Pelvis
- CT Virtual Colonoscopy
- CT Bone Density
- CT Upright Skeleton
- MRI Brain
- MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
- MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
- MRI Prostate
- Ultrasound Thyroid
- Ultrasound Testes/Ovaries
- Digital Mammogram
- Full Body Mole Screen
Preventive health screenings are a key area of focus for Echelon Health since they can help people understand their health better and take steps to improve it. When your mind is completely at ease, it is much simpler to maintain your health and take care of yourself.
‘Worldwide trends in hypertension prevalence and progress in treatment and control from 1990 to 2019: a pooled analysis of 1,201
population-representative studies with 104 million participants’ by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) is published in The Lancet. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01330-1 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/piiS0140-6736(21)01330-1/fulltext
Data by country, including data visualisations: