The High Stakes of Hypertension
Global Health and Development "Basel – Most of us know about hypertension – at least we think we do. We understand that abnormally high blood pressure puts us at greater risk of heart attacks and stroke. And we also know that it is linked to diet and lifestyle, and can be treated with the right medication. But many would say that hypertension is primarily a “rich-country” problem, implying that most affected people have access to the right knowledge and treatment. That is not the case at all.
Hypertension affects a staggering one billion people worldwide, and is responsible for nearly ten million deaths annually – as many as all infectious diseases combined. Furthermore, most of the disease burden from hypertension occurs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where people develop the disease at a younger age and experience worse outcomes than in high-income countries. You are far more likely to die from hypertension-related complications in Ghana, Mongolia, or Vietnam than you are in Britain, France, or the United States. (...)
On a recent visit to a hospital in Accra, Ghana, I saw firsthand the suffering and grief caused by hypertension. Hospital wards are filled with dozens of debilitated or dying young adults – working-age people who are responsible for families – suffering the effects of stroke or other complications of hypertension. Similar scenes play out throughout the LMICs." (Photo: Ann Aerts, Novartis Foundation)