Hypertension rates on the rise in low-income countries

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People in low-income countries are seeing rates of high blood pressure increase faster than higher-income countries, even while their levels of hypertension awareness and treatment actually declined.

The findings are according to a new study in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

By examining MEDLINE data from between 1995 and 2014, researchers found that about 31 percent of the world population had high blood pressure in 2010—about 28.5 percent of the population in high income countries and about 31.5 percent in low-income countries. This was out of step with previous measures of hypertension in similar areas—high-income countries saw rates of hypertension decrease by nearly 3 percent between 2000 and 2010. But in lower- and middle-income countries, the rates of hypertension increased by nearly 8 percent.

To compound (or possibly help explain) those opposite trends, rates of hypertension awareness, treatment and control increased about 9 percent in high-income countries during that time. But in lower- and middle-income countries, those rates decreased between about 1 and 5 percent.

The researchers speculated that increasing urbanization and the rise of certain parts of unhealthy lifestyles seen in some more developed nations might have led to increased hypertension in areas where such problems wouldn’t have previously existed before 2000.

The results are important, the researchers said, because they highlight a currently unmet or under-met need for further education about high blood pressure in low-income countries. Increasing hypertension in such areas has the ability to become a public health issue because additional health problems can accompany or result from hypertension, including kidney diseases, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

They urged implementation of prevention measures in low-income countries similar to those used in other areas of world, such as healthy eating, exercise and drug prescriptions. These efforts, though, could be more difficult in low-income countries, where access to healthcare can be limited and governments have fewer resources to spend on such preventative measures.