Over 30 Million Pakistanis Affected by High Blood Pressure: WHO Report

According to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) maiden report on hypertension, more than 30 million Pakistani adults are grappling with high blood pressure, a significant health concern for the nation. This report, titled "The race against a silent killer," underscores the urgent need for preventive and treatment measures.

The report reveals that out of an estimated 32.2 million Pakistanis with hypertension, merely 44% have been diagnosed. Disaggregated by gender, the figures stand at 34% for men and 54% for women. Alarmingly, only about 35% of these diagnosed patients are under treatment, and a mere 11% have managed to control their hypertension. The split by gender shows that 8% of men and 14% of women have their blood pressure in check.

The study highlights daily salt intake in Pakistan at an average of 9 grams per person. Furthermore, 21% of the Pakistani populace are smokers, with a higher prevalence among men (34%) than women (8%). Sedentary lifestyles are another concern, as 2016 data indicates that 34% of Pakistanis lack regular physical activity.

In 2019 alone, cardiovascular diseases claimed approximately 450,000 lives in Pakistan. Disturbingly, 58% of these deaths are directly linked to uncontrolled hypertension.

Regrettably, Pakistan has yet to formulate treatment guidelines for hypertension management. The lack of a national blood pressure target and a specific target for salt consumption are glaring gaps. The country also misses a reliable system to routinely collate cause-specific mortality data, which is essential for health planning.

The WHO report stressed that for Pakistan to achieve a 50% control rate in hypertension, an additional 12.5 million patients would need effective treatment. Following this trajectory could avert nearly 839,000 fatalities by 2040.

Shifting the lens globally, hypertension cases have seen a sharp spike, doubling from 1990 to 2019, increasing from 650 million to a staggering 1.3 billion. A significant portion of this global population remains oblivious to their hypertensive status. It is particularly concerning that over three-quarters of hypertensive adults are in low to middle-income countries like Pakistan.

For every five individuals globally with hypertension, four lack adequate treatment. Addressing this globally could prevent an estimated 76 million deaths between 2023 and 2050.

Hypertension is a rampant health challenge affecting one in every three adults globally. It's a precursor to various health complications like strokes, heart failure, and kidney disease. While age and genetics play a role in its onset, lifestyle choices like high salt consumption, sedentary habits, and excessive alcohol intake can escalate its risk.

Experts emphasize the importance of lifestyle modifications, recommend healthier diets, quit tobacco, and increase physical activity as first-line interventions. When necessary, affordable medications can effectively manage hypertension, averting associated health risks.

Efficient prevention, early diagnosis, and management of hypertension rank among the most cost-beneficial health interventions. Countries like Pakistan should prioritize these at the primary healthcare level.

"Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it," stated WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the report's launch at the 78th session of the UNGA. The session aimed at assessing progress towards achieving sustainable development health goals.

Pakistan should pay attention to this report and focus on improving health steps and spending to tackle this quiet yet serious health problem.


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