Hypertension Treatment Could Save 76 Million Lives, Says WHO

Improved hypertension treatment could prevent 76 million deaths between 2023 and 2050, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Increasing the number of patients effectively treated for hypertension to levels observed in high-performing countries could also avert 79 million heart attacks and 17 million cases of heart failure between now and 2050.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg, affects one in three adults worldwide and can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage, and other health problems.

The number of people living with hypertension has doubled from 650 million to 1.3 billion between 1990 and 2019. Most of them live in low- and middle-income countries.

Nearly half of the people with hypertension are unaware of their condition, and four out of five people with high blood pressure do not receive adequate treatment.

The WHO report highlights that the prevention, early detection, and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care, with the economic benefits outweighing the costs by about 18 to one.

"Hypertension control programs remain neglected, under-prioritized and vastly underfunded. Strengthening hypertension control must be part of every country's journey towards universal health coverage, based on well-functioning, equitable and resilient health systems, built on a foundation of primary health care," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said in a statement.

High-performing countries such as Canada and South Korea delivered comprehensive national hypertension treatment programs, according to the WHO, and both countries surpassed the 50% mark for blood pressure control in adults living with hypertension.

The reports outline lifestyle changes that could prevent high blood pressure, such as following a healthier diet, reducing sodium intake, quitting tobacco and alcohol, and being physically active.

The WHO also emphasizes the need for regular, uninterrupted access to affordable medication to ensure effective hypertension treatment

In a report released in March, the WHO called for "massive efforts" to reduce the salt intake globally, as the excess use is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

In 2021, hypertension was a primary or contributing cause of 691,095 deaths in the United States and costs $131 billion each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows.

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