By Sharon Atieno

Despite 1.28 billion people living with  high blood pressure, or hypertension globally,  a vast majority are in low and middle income countries (LMICs), a World Health Organization report reveals.

Though the number of people living with the condition has doubled since 1990, the study  which was co-led by Imperial College London found the number in LMICs to be as high as 82%.

In addition, Canada, Peru and Switzerland were found to have the lowest prevalence globally in 2019, while some of the highest rates were recorded in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Paraguay in women and Hungary, Paraguay and Poland for men.

The study also finds that there are significant gaps in diagnosis and treatment. About 580 million with hypertension are unaware of their condition because they were never diagnosed while half (720 million) were not receiving treatment that they needed.

Moreover, people in sub- Saharan Africa, central,south and south-east Asia, and Pacific Island nations are the least likely to be receiving medication in contrast to men and women in countries like Canada, Iceland and the Republic of Korea where access to medication is high, with more than 70% of those with the condition receiving treatment in 2019.

Professor Majid Ezzati, senior author of the study and Professor of Global Environmental Health at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “Nearly half a century after we started treating hypertension, which is easy to diagnose and treat with low-cost medicines, it is a public health failure that so many of the people with high blood pressure in the world are still not getting the treatment they need.”

Hypertension is a serious medical condition that significantly increases the risks of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people ­– having the condition.