Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

The stakes in hypertension are very high

By Ann Aerts (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-13 08:57

The stakes in hypertension are very high

Shelves displaying medicines are seen at a pharmacy in Shanghai, November 27, 2015.[Photo/Agencies]

Most of us know about hypertension-at least we think we do. We understand that abnormally high blood pressure puts us at greater risk of heart attacks and stroke. And we also know that it is linked to diet and lifestyle, and can be treated with the right medication.

Hypertension affects a staggering 1 billion people worldwide, and is responsible for nearly 10 million deaths annually-as many as all infectious diseases combined. Furthermore, most of the disease burden from hypertension occurs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where people develop the disease at a younger age and experience worse outcomes than in high-income countries. You are far more likely to die from hypertension-related complications in Ghana, Mongolia or Vietnam than you are in Britain, France or the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, the rates of hypertension in LMICs, are already the highest in the world, and are set to continue to rise rapidly. Cardiovascular disease-for which hypertension is the leading risk factor-now accounts for the highest disease burden globally and is the main cause of death in most LMICs.

Some of the reasons for hypertension's rising prevalence are easy to discern. Increased life expectancy is causing the share of elderly people to grow, while economic development and urbanization reduce physical activity and increase consumption of processed food, alcohol, and tobacco.

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