Average BP falls across world, rises in India

Blood pressure might be dipping across the world but in India, it has risen.

The World Health Organisation says the average BP went down by 2.7mm mercury among women globally, while increasing by 2.4mm mercury in India. In men, it decreased by 2.3 mm mercury globally in the past three decades but in India it went up by 2.2 mm. mercury.

Nearly 139 million Indians were suffering from high blood pressure at the end of 2008 - 14% of the global burden of uncontrolled hypertension.

Researchers attending the World Congress on Cardiology said on Saturday that a 25% increase in high BP screening in 19 developing countries including India would reduce the number of cardiovascular disease events and deaths that occur each year by up to 3%.

The study by the Harvard School of Medicine found that screening an additional 25% of the population would lead to an increase of more than 10% in the rate of appropriate treatment of hypertension in high-risk individuals.

High BP is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease mortality, causing more than 7 million deaths every year worldwide. The Harvard study presented at the World Congress of Cardiology in Dubai says around 900 million people in developing countries have high blood pressure but only one-third are aware of their disease. Moreover, only 100 million of these people receive treatment, while only 5% of the total are controlled.

Dr Ashok Seth, chairman of Escorts Heart Institute said "over 50% people in India don't know they have high BP till incidentally found on a routine health check. The danger is that in many, it presents in the form of severe high pressure called hypertensive crisis which leads to temporary stroke, bleeding in eyes and heart failure. Those with high risk like family history of high BP and heart disease and smokers should get their BP checked at regular intervals."

Dr Deepak Natarajan, head of interventional cardiology at Moolchand hospital told TOI, "Very young people are now coming to us with a full blown heart attack. And one of the reasons for this is uncontrolled high blood pressure. Youngsters today have very poor lifestyle triggered by their extremely busy work schedules. India is seeing a massive increase in BP levels which is a huge contributor to stroke and heart attacks. Youngsters must spend at least 30 minutes exercising every day, consume a good amount of fruit and vegetables and reduce their body weight."

"Strategies to increase the screening for hypertension could lead to significant reductions in CVD deaths, at costs that are considered to be acceptable according to WHO recommendations," said Dr Thomas Gaziano, assistant professor, Harvard School of Medicine.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the major preventable risk factors for premature death from CVD worldwide. High blood ressure contributes to around half of all CVD and the risk of developing CVD doubles for every 10-point increase in diastolic blood pressure.

From 1980-2008, the number of Indians suffering from high BP rose by 87 million, while the percentage of population suffering from the ailment rose from 21% to 26%.

Treating raised blood pressure has been associated with a 35-40% reduction in the risk of stroke and at least a 16% reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction.

WHO says that though prevalence of uncontrolled hypertension dipped from 33% in 1980 to 29% in 2008 in men and from 29% to 25% in women, the actual number of people with uncontrolled hypertension increased from 605 million in 1980 to 978 million in 2008.

Prof Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College ( London) had told media , "Any increase of BP is bad. In an average Indian woman, it went up from 120.9mm mercury to 123.1mm mercury in the past 28 years while in men, it went up from 122.1mm mercury to 123.9mm mercury. In women, BP levels increased by almost 0.8mm mercury per decade since 1980 while in men, it increased by 0.9mm mercury per decade."

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