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WHO’s first-ever report on high BP’s impact; 76 million deaths can be averted | Health


World Health Organization (WHO) has come out of its first-ever report on the devastating impact of high blood pressure and has discussed in detail preventive measures that can help people win fight with this silent disease. The WHO report shows 4 out of 5 people with hypertension and not treated adequately and 76 million deaths can be averted between 2023-2050 if this gap can be filled. (Also read: High blood pressure: Natural ways to lower your blood pressure)

Hypertension is considered a silent killer and only half of people with the condition are currently unaware of their condition. (Unsplash)
Hypertension is considered a silent killer and only half of people with the condition are currently unaware of their condition. (Unsplash)

What is hypertension

It is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. Blood pressure above 140/90 is considered high blood pressure while it is considered severe if the pressure is above 180/120. Blurry or double vision, fatigue, headache, palpitations, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, nausea are all signs of hypertension. However, many a time, high blood pressure does not show any symptoms and one can only know by measuring it.

Hypertension affects 1 in 3 adults around the world and it can lead to complications like stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and many other health problems.

Hypertension is considered a silent killer and only half of people with the condition are currently unaware of their condition. As the lifestyle of people has undergone a huge change, the condition has nearly doubled between 1990 and 2019 from 650 million to 1.3 billion. More than three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.

Lifestyle changes can help immensely in managing or preventing hypertension. Eating a healthy diet, quitting tobacco and being more active can help lower blood pressure. It is also important to take medications to control hypertension and prevent complications.

“Most heart attacks and strokes in the world today can be prevented with affordable, safe, accessible medicines and other interventions, such as sodium reduction,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.

The WHO Guideline for the pharmacological treatment of hypertension in adults notes the importance of addressing noncommunicable disease risk factors, such as a diet high in sodium and low in potassium, the consumption of alcohol and physical inactivity, in both the treatment and the prevention of hypertension.


Sodium intake

“Reducing sodium and eating a diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables high in potassium and nitrates also helps lower blood pressure,” says the report.

Of all the deaths from cardiovascular causes that occurred in 2019, almost 2 million were attributed to sodium consumption that results in 24-hour urinary sodium excretion above the reference level of 1 to 5 grams per day, the report further states.

Alcohol intake

Although alcohol acutely lowers blood pressure, this is followed by a rebound increase a few hours after ingestion. Furthermore, chronic alcohol consumption is linked to a high incidence of hypertension, even when consumed at low to moderate levels.

Tobacco use

While scientific evidence on the impact of tobacco use on chronic high blood pressure levels is inconclusive, tobacco smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke acutely exert a hypertensive effect, mainly through the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Similarly, research has shown that smokeless tobacco use may acutely elevate blood pressure These and other effects of tobacco use not only reduce life expectancy amongst those who consume tobacco and are exposed to tobacco smoke but also adversely affect quality of life.

Physical inactivity

Physical activity promotes many physiological responses that result in lowered risk of hypertension due to beneficial short- and long-term autonomic and haemodynamic adaptations. There is strong evidence of an inverse relationship between physical activity and incidence of hypertension among adults with normal blood pressure, and that physical activity reduces blood pressure among adults with prehypertension and normal blood pressure.


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