Hypertension - Global Scourge That Can Be Tamed

by Medindia Content Team on  December 3, 2007 at 3:16 PM General Health News
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Hypertension - Global Scourge That Can Be Tamed
According to experts, high blood pressure levels or hypertension is the leading cause of most deaths across the world. The disorder causes around more than 7 million deaths every year, give figures.

New research from The George Institute for International Health and quoted in the journal Hypertension , says that blood pressure-related diseases like coronary heart disease and stroke continue to cause potentially preventable deaths and disabilities around the world. Developing countries such as India and China are observed to bear the brunt.

In 2005 the World Health Organization noted blood pressure-related diseases as a major cause of premature death and disability. The disorder was touted as a serious threat to social and economic development. Blood pressure related diseases take a massive social and economic toll on low-income countries. They hamper an already fragile health system.

At the same time, lower income countries lack the infrastructure to identify those at risk of blood pressure related diseases. Says lead author Dr Vlado Perkovic : "Scores of people in these regions are unaware that they have high blood pressure. What's needed are new approaches to the identification and treatment of individuals at high risk of blood pressure related diseases, utilizing low cost but highly effective therapies that are already widely available. Health care providers must be trained and encouraged to provide screening, risk assessment and monitoring. The emphasis then moves to prevention rather than treatment, which is much more cost-effective for most nations."

By 2025, it is projected that 1.5 billion adults across the world will be affected by elevated blood pressure. In high-income regions, the numbers of hypertensive individuals are predicted to swell by 70 million, as against a rise of 500 million in developing countries. In most developed countries, blood pressure lowering drugs have played an important part in reducing the enormity of related diseases. Sadly, this has not been the case in low-income countries. As the prevalence of elevated blood pressure continues to rise here, these countries face serious threat of such diseases.

Cardiovascular diseases are potentially preventable. Yet they can place a huge social and economic burden on individuals and the community. Stroke for one, places a huge personal and financial load on the victim, their families and their broader communities. In Asia stroke rates are very high and commonly affect relatively young individuals in the prime of their working life. Still, the risk of stroke can be substantially and effectively lowered by widely available low cost BP lowering therapies.

"While safe and effective antihypertensive treatment could be effectively provided in many developing countries, in the form of a cheap generic blood pressure lowering drug, the reality is that most people who need them are not receiving any treatments at all. Many lower income countries face a double burden of communicable and non-communicable disease, yet allocate limited resources to deal with the rise in these conditions," rues Dr Perkovic.

According to the article , diuretics are available, affordable and suitable for resource poor settings. It points out that one such drug can be bought internationally for around 0.3 cents per tablet, which equates to just around US$1 per person per year. Dr Perkovic explains that while this should be achievable, the absence of a functional primary health care service in the region works out that even free or inexpensive drugs cannot be reliably handed over to patients. "Often, for patients, the prices are grossly inflated or financial incentives for health care providers means that more expensive drugs are more often prescribed," he says.

Even a 10mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure provides up to 25% reduction of cardiovascular events say experts. "Consumers must have access to cheap or subsidized drugs, health education about blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, in addition to access to community programs aimed at self-referral for risk assessment.

Provider incentives are likely to improve medical record keeping. Governments must regulate drug supply to assure continuity and cost management", stresses Dr Perkovic.

Source: Medindia

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