Africa’s increasing health burden: 1 in 3 adults have hypertension worldwide, in African 40-50% are undiagnosed- WHO

Shygmomanometer for measuring blood pressure- hypertension

These are the latest numbers from the WHO: 1 in 3 adults worldwide has hypertension while 1 in 10 has Diabetes.

For anyone relatively informed about health issues, it is not news that the last decade has witnessed an increasing trend of chronic diseases such as Hypertension, Diabetes, Asthma, Chronic Obstructive lung diseases, etc generally termed Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among developing countries, in contrast to our already established epidemics of infectious (and communicable) diseases in the likes of Malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB and co.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization, WHO released a detailed report, the World Health Statistics 2012(pdf) and it expressly highlights the growing problem of NCDs. The World health statistics is an annual WHO publication of available global health-related statistics compiled from 194 countries. According to the report, “One in three adults worldwide has raised blood pressure – a condition that causes around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease. One in 10 adults has diabetes”.

Unlike communicable diseases which are largely caused by infecting organisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites) and spread by the compounding poor healthcare systems, low assess to portable water, over-crowding, poor hygiene and attitude to health, etc, the situation is rather different for the NCDs. Rather than being caused by a singular entity, these NCDs are better understood to be associated with certain underlying risk factors such as obesity, cigarette smoking, and alcohol consumption. Usually, the presence of these diseases is often a combination of both genetic predisposition and environmental factors making the case for lifestyle modification as the way forward in taking preventive measures.

With joint efforts by international agencies and government partnerships, drugs for ailments like TB, HIV/AIDS and even Malaria (in some primary health centres) are dispensed completely free of charge to patients. That is clearly not the case with these NCDs because they have really not been in focus as much as the communicable diseases, but at least, these medications have cheaper generic forms that makes them more affordable, seeing that in most cases, the patient may eventually have to stay on drugs as ‘management’ for life.

READ MORE: Diabetes 101

But neither does that negate the fact that daily hospital practice constantly witness already diagnosed hypertensive or diabetic patients who are not drug-compliant because they cannot afford to pay for their drugs, so time and time again, hospital visits are constantly laden with complications from organ damage by either hypertension or diabetes which both share their predilection for the eyes, heart, kidneys, not forgetting to mention that they are harbingers of one another for the likes of strokes and accumulation of bad cholesterols in the blood stream. So far, research is yet to uncover the primary cause of either hypertension or diabetes so the current mode of treatment is solely based on trying to curb the primary problem while limiting complicated states e.g. hypertension- take drugs that reduce the blood pressure, and diabetes- take drugs that reduce the blood sugar, hence the term ‘management’ rather than ‘cure’.

The report goes on to categorically state that in high-income countries, widespread diagnosis and treatment with low-cost medication have significantly reduced mean blood pressure across populations – and this has contributed to a reduction in deaths from heart disease.

“In Africa, however, more than 40% (and up to 50%) of adults in many countries are estimated to have high blood pressure. Most of these people remain undiagnosed, although many of these cases could be treated with low-cost medications, which would significantly reduce the risk of death and disability from heart disease and stroke”.

And with a special touch on Obesity, the report says that “in every region of the world, obesity doubled between 1980 and 2008; today, half a billion people (12%) of the world’s population are considered obese…. In all parts of the world, women are more likely to be obese than men, and thus at greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers”.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) currently cause almost two thirds of all deaths worldwide.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the easiest (and cheapest) solutions is for more and more health awareness to promote preventive medicine by getting people to embrace healthier lifestyles…. And that is why HALA is here for you!


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One Response to “Africa’s increasing health burden: 1 in 3 adults have hypertension worldwide, in African 40-50% are undiagnosed- WHO”

  1. hypertension
    August 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

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