Hypertension – The World’s Silent Killer

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – We are living in a rapidly changing environment. Throughout the world, human health is being shaped by the same powerful forces: ageing, rapid urbanisation and the globalisation of unhealthy lifestyles. Increasingly, wealthy and resource-constrained countries are facing the same health issues. One of the most striking examples of this shift is the fact that non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the world’s leading cause of mortality. One of the key risk factors for cardiovascular disease is hypertension - or raised blood pressure. Globally increased blood pressure is a leading contributor to death and disability.

Although we have known for decades that there are effective anti-hypertensive treatments, if uncontrolled it still imposes an enormous burden on society, particularly in low and middle-income countries. While infectious diseases, maternal and child health issues are critical priorities among the poorest populations, at the same time, the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer is rising. Currently, more than 68 percent of all deaths globally are now associated with NCDs; 82 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Death from hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease: an estimated 9.4 million people every year lose their lives, which is equivalent to all infectious diseases combined!

People in low- and middle-income countries are suffering from non-communicable diseases at a younger age. And with worse outcomes than those in high-income countries, the bottom line is, if something is not done to tackle this issue now, the impact on economies, productivity and people of these countries will be as big if not bigger than HIV/AIDS. This is why the Novartis Foundation and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases brought experts from the global health and hypertension community together to highlight innovative models for hypertension management and to use these models in poorer regions.   

The meeting aimed to create the right kind of collaborations and data across the global health community, to ensure there is a real and lasting impact on the management of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. The Novartis Foundation recently launched the Community-based Hypertension Improvement Project in Ghana; now in its second year, they have organised a dialogue event to discuss how to use lessons learnt from infectious disease to innovate for treatment and care of non-communicable diseases.

Hypertension is a silent, invisible killer that rarely causes symptoms. Increasing public awareness is key, as is access to early detection. Raised blood pressure is a serious warning sign that significant lifestyle changes are urgently needed. People need to know why raised blood pressure is dangerous, and how to take steps to control it. They need to know that raised blood pressure and other risk factors such as diabetes often appear together. To raise this kind of awareness, countries need systems and services in place to promote universal health coverage and support healthy lifestyles. 

Photo Credit: Novartis Image on 3BL Media