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Hypertension prevalence rises in India due to low awareness

Hypertension also knowns as High Blood Pressure is a non-communicable medical condition in which a person’s blood pressure elevates persistently. It can lead to severe cardiovascular health conditions and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and sometimes death. In India, Hypertension is the most important risk factor for chronic disease burden. Many studies confirm that there the low awareness and control of the disease is contributing to its increasing damage in the country.

The most common problem in India regarding hypertension most Indians suffering from it are unaware of their condition. A recent study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Heidelberg Institute of Global Health, University of Birmingham and University of Gottingen on the basis of National Health and Family Survey (NFHS-4, 2015-16) found out the in-depth details about the prevalence of hypertension in India. The data was collected from 731864 individuals aged 15-49 years, which covered each district of 29 states and 7 union territories of India and found out the following: 

  • Only 5.3% of hypertensive men and 10.9% of hypertensive women between the ages of 15 and 49 have their blood pressure under control (i.e. they take medications and have normal blood pressure).
  • Screening of hypertensive individuals was lowest in Madhya Pradesh (61.3 percent) and highest in Haryana (93.5 percent). Awareness level was lowest in Chhattisgarh (22.1 percent) and highest in Puducherry (80.5 percent).
  • More than half of Indians aged 15-49 years with hypertension are not aware of their hypertension status and diagnosis. 
  • The study also highlighted that less than 1 in 7 (13%) reported currently taking hypertensive medication and less than 1 in 10 (8%) had their blood pressure under control. 

The findings of the study inform us about the urgency required for the improvements in hypertension awareness, care and control, and treatment for all Indians especially amongst the most productive years (15-49 years). “While people do not usually notice that they have high blood pressure, the condition raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes substantially. Scaling up screening and treatment for high blood pressure is feasible because the condition is easy to test for and inexpensive to treat. Such a scale-up could result in huge benefits for population health in India.” said author Pascal Geldsetzer from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

India forms 18% of the global population and is predicted to be the most populous country by 2025. India’s ability to manage hypertension care will have a decisive impact on the world’s ability to achieve international NCD goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs of the World Health Organization (WHO). “Hypertension may not have any symptoms, diagnosis in the early phase is untapped due to lack of awareness and regular medical checkups. Hypertension can be avoided with regular checkups and lifestyle modifications. India needs to focus on this silent killer to reduce preventable premature morbidity and mortality burden due to cardiovascular diseases.” said author Ashish Awasthi, Assistant Professor (INSPIRE Faculty) at PHFI.

Some of the ways through which hypertension can be avoided are eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, being at a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, not smoking, managing stress and talking to family and friends about problems. Hypertension management prevents future strokes, heart attacks, and deaths. Since the treatment and diagnosis of hypertension are relatively easy and cheap, the hypertension epidemic can be easily avoided in the near future.

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