1 billion people worldwide now have high blood pressure

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1 billion people worldwide now have high blood pressure

While the number of people living with high blood pressure reaches 1.1 billion worldwide, the UK has the lowest rates in Europe

The number of people living with high blood pressure worldwide has doubled over the last 40 years, with the problem shifting from wealthy western countries to the developing world, according to new research published in science journal, The Lancet, in November. The figures came from the largest ever study to look at blood pressure rates around the world, using readings from over 19 million adults in 200 countries. 

High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, killing around 7.5 million people worldwide every year. "Taken globally, high blood pressure is no longer a problem of the Western world or wealthy countries. It is a problem of the world's poorest countries and people." commented Majid Ezzati, a professor at Imperial College London's school of public health.

The increase from 594 million people in 1975 to over 1.1 billion in 2015 is thought to be due to population growth and an aging population. The biggest rises were seen mainly in South Asia and parts of Africa. More than half of those with high blood pressure live in Asia, including 226 million people in China and 199 million in India.

Meanwhile the proportion of adults with high blood pressure in western countries, such as Canada, Australia and parts of Europe, have dropped dramatically. This is likely to be due to better diets which include more fruit and vegetables, as well as better healthcare, whereby raised blood pressure can be detected early and treated with blood pressure-lowering drugs. 

The study’s authors call for policies to help those worse off: 

“Our results show that substantial reductions in blood pressure and prevalence are possible, as seen in high-income countries over the past 40 years. They also reveal that WHO's target of reducing the prevalence of high blood pressure by 25% by 2025 is unlikely to be achieved without effective policies that allow the poorest countries and people to have healthier diets-particularly reducing salt intake and making fruit and vegetables affordable-as well as improving detection and treatment with blood pressure lowering drugs."

Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK commented:

"The findings from the global study are very concerning, yet it’s interesting to see how the UK was one of the countries that had the lowest proportion of adults living with high blood pressure in 2015. 

“The UK’s salt reduction programmme, which was pioneered by the Food Standards Agency and Consensus Action on Salt & Health, has been considered a worldwide success. The programme involved a collaborative effort with the food industry to reduce salt in the nation’s diet. As a result, significant reductions in salt intake were made at a population level, reducing blood pressure and preventing 9,000 deaths per year from heart attack and stroke, with a healthcare saving of £1.5 billion. A similar mandatory programme should be implemented on a global scale."

Blood pressure around the world 

  • The largest rises in high blood pressure were in South Asia, including in Bangladesh and Nepal, and Sub-Saharan Africa, including in Ethiopia and Malawi.
  • Around a third of women have high blood pressure in most countries in West Africa, including Niger, Chad, and Mali. 
  • The highest blood pressures in the world were 138 mmHg (systolic) for Slovenian men and 133 mmHg for Nigerien women in average in 2015. 
  • High blood pressure remains a serious problem in Central and Eastern Europe, including Slovenia, Lithuania and Croatia. 
  • Britain has the lowest rates of high blood pressure in Europe, with around 1 in 8 women and 1 in 5 men with high blood pressure, compared to more than a third of men in several central and eastern European countries.
  • The lowest average blood pressures were about 118 mmHg systolic for men and 111 mmHg for women in South Korea and Canada. 
  • The lowest rates of high blood pressure in the world were seen in Canada, the UK, Australia, the USA, Peru, South Korea, and Singapore.
  • Men had higher blood pressure than women in most world regions.

Read more

Read the full paper from NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC).Worldwide trends in blood pressure from 1975 to 2015: a pooled analysis of 1479 population-based measurement studies with 19.1 million participants. Lancet 2017, 389:37-55

See how the prevalence of high blood pressure varies around the world

See how blood pressure rates have changed over time in different parts of the world 

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