AFRICA—The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned about the global hypertension crisis, emphasising the urgent need for comprehensive action to combat this pervasive health issue.

According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, approximately 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware of their condition, and less than half of those diagnosed receive treatment, with only about 21% having their hypertension under control.

It is estimated that hypertension affects an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30 to 79 worldwide, with the majority living in low- and middle-income countries.

This lack of awareness and treatment is contributing significantly to the global burden of disease, leading to millions of premature deaths each year.

The WHO African Region has the highest prevalence of hypertension (27%), while the WHO Americas Region has the lowest (18%).

Additionally, the number of adults with hypertension increased from 594 million in 1975 to 1.13 billion in 2015, with the majority of the increase occurring in low- and middle-income countries due to an increase in hypertension risk factors.

In response to this global health challenge, WHO has implemented several initiatives to reduce hypertension’s prevalence.

One key target is to achieve a 33% reduction in the prevalence of hypertension by 2030, as part of the broader effort to combat noncommunicable diseases worldwide.

To support countries in achieving this target, WHO has released updated guidelines on the pharmacological treatment of hypertension.

These guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for the initiation and management of hypertension treatment, including target blood pressure levels and follow-up intervals.

In partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations, WHO launched the Global Hearts Initiative in 2016.

 This initiative includes the HEARTS technical package, which outlines strategies for improving cardiovascular health through lifestyle counselling, access to essential medicines, and team-based care.

Since 2017, WHO has also partnered with Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, to support national governments in implementing standardized hypertension control programs.

 These programs have demonstrated the effectiveness of protocol-based treatment models, with 7.5 million people in low- and middle-income countries receiving treatment under these initiatives.

Hypertension is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.

Despite its severity, many people with hypertension do not exhibit symptoms, making regular blood pressure checks essential for early detection and management.

Risk factors for hypertension include older age, genetics, obesity, physical inactivity, a high-salt diet, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet, increased physical activity, and quitting tobacco, can significantly lower blood pressure.

However, many individuals may still require medication to manage their condition effectively.

WHO urges all countries to intensify efforts to combat hypertension through public health measures, improved access to healthcare, and patient education.

Regular blood pressure checks, lifestyle modifications, and adherence to prescribed medications are critical components of effective hypertension management.

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