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Only a third of people have hypertension under control

Large study covering 1.5m people identifies global problems

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 20 May 2019

Only a third of people with high blood pressure have it under control due to ignorance or poor treatment, according to newly-published results* of a large global screening initiative.

A global initiative by the International Society of Hypertension (ISH) to screen the blood pressure of as many people globally as possible, managed to screen more than 1.5m people across countries of all incomes in 2018.

According to the most recent Global Burden of Disease study (2017), raised blood pressure is the biggest contributor to disease and mortality worldwide, with 10.4m raised blood pressure related deaths in 2017.

To help tackle this and address a perceived lack of priority given to blood pressure monitoring and control in most countries, the ISH took action by using a global network of volunteers to measure the blood pressure of as many people as possible during the month of May. The project, called "May Measurement Month" (MMM), began in 2017 and is now in its third year.

For the latest completed project, the MMM for 2018 included 89 countries and 1,504,963 people screened. The latest results were published in the European Heart Journal as part of World Hypertension Day (May 17).

The latest project found that around a third of people (33.4%) had hypertension and of those people, 59.5% were aware of their condition and 55.3% were on treatment.

Of those on treatment, 60% were controlled, meaning that only around a third of all those with hypertension were controlled.

A total of 40% of people were taking blood pressure treatments but still had uncontrolled blood pressure and in addition, 15% of those screened overall had hypertension and were not on any form of treatment.

The study authors said that in all cases where hypertension was detected, the person was offered diet and lifestyle advice to help lower their blood pressure and ways to seek treatment if required. They plan to evaluate the impact of this advice as part of the ongoing MMM 2019 project.

The study also found less than half (43%) of people screened had had their blood pressure checked in the last 12 months.

In addition, there were stark regional differences in the results with the Americas and Europe having the highest rates of hypertension detected (40.4% and 41.6% respectively), while sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest (24.8%).

The Americas (76.7%) and Europe (71%) also had the highest proportion of people with hypertension aware of their condition, while North Africa and the Middle East had the lowest (35.7%).

Professor Neil Poulter, chief investigator for MMM, immediate past-president of ISH, and professor of preventive cardiovascular medicine and director of the Imperial Clinical Trials Unit at Imperial College London, said: “The simplest way to save lives is to increase awareness and get people's blood pressure checked.

“It is urgent that we act to address the enormous burden that hypertension is placing on every country in the world. As long as we have sufficient support, we will continue to grow MMM on an annual basis, making May the month the world checks its blood pressure.”


*Beaney T, Burrell L M, Castillo R R, MMM Investigators et al. May Measurement Month 2018: a pragmatic global screening campaign to raise awareness of blood pressure by the International Society of Hypertension. European Heart Journal (2019) 0, 1–12. DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz300

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