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More than a billion people suffer from hypertension worldwide

A recently published study by researchers at the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) finds that the number of people with high blood pressure has doubled since 1990. Low-income and middle-income countries are the most affected.

What is high blood pressure?

We speak of high blood pressure when the blood pressure in the arteries rises too high. The two values ​​of blood pressure are usually between 10 and 14 for the maximum pressure, and 6 and 8 for the minimum pressure. Thus, doctors consider a blood pressure of 12-8 to be "normal". Hypertension usually appears with age while other conditions, such as diabetes, are risk factors. A diet high in sodium as well as a lack of exercise can also contribute. Although it usually causes no visible symptoms on its own, chronic hypertension can stress the body, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney failure .

That being said, what is the prevalence of hypertension in the world? In a study, researchers from the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), a network of scientists that studies the prevalence of major contributors to non-communicable diseases around the world, attempted to answer this question.

For this work, published in The Lancet, the researchers reviewed more than 1,200 studies conducted over the past thirty years in 184 countries . Together, these studies involved more than 100 million people aged 30 to 79 representative of their population at the national level. These data were then used to estimate trends in hypertension rates in 200 countries and territories.

A growing epidemic

In total, the researchers estimated that more than 1.27 billion people aged 30 to 79 had high blood pressure in 2019. By comparison, "only" 650 million people were affected in 1990. More worryingly, more than half of these cases (about 720 million people) would not be treated for their hypertension .

While countries such as the UK, Spain, Canada and Switzerland have seen steep declines in their prevalence of hypertension since the 1990s, other countries, on the contrary, suffered a sharp increase, in particular Paraguay, Argentina and Hungary and Paraguay. More generally, of the 1.27 billion people concerned, just over a billion people with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.

To combat this growing "epidemic" of high blood pressure, researchers urge policies in these countries to promote access to the healthiest foods, in particular by reducing blood pressure. salt consumption and making fruits and vegetables more affordable and accessible. At the same time, additional means must be provided to support diagnostics by expanding universal health coverage and primary care, and ensuring uninterrupted access to effective medicines.