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Study finds 20 percent of global deaths linked to high blood pressure



February 09, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 

The number of people in the world with high blood pressure has doubled in the past two decades, putting billions at increased risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).


Individuals with systolic blood pressures above 110 mm Hg grew worldwide from 73,119 for every 100,000 people in 1990 to 81,373 per 100,000 in 2015. At the same time, it also became more common for people to have systolic blood pressures over 140 mm Hg (17,307 for every 100,000 people in 1990 versus 20,526 in 2015).


Deaths are on the rise too, with over 19 percent of all deaths worldwide in 2015 linked to high blood pressure. Deaths from high blood pressure grew by an average of 1.6 percent per year between 1990 and 2015.


The researchers noted that the burden of high blood pressure remains high despite the availability of preventive interventions and low-cost, effective antihypertensive medications.


Closer to home, the number of Americans diagnosed with high blood pressure is cause for concern as America observes American Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29 percent of Americans have high blood pressure. The CDC’s numbers translate into 75 million Americans with the condition – and show that only slightly more than half (54 percent) have it under control.


“This finding is concerning because we know that high blood pressure and heart attacks or chronic heart failure are so closely related,” said John Meigs, Jr., M.D., president of the American Association of Family Physicians. “According to the CDC, seven out of 10 people who have a first heart attack have high blood pressure. Seven out of 10 people who develop chronic heart failure have high blood pressure. So it’s important that people know what their blood pressure is and work with their family physician to treat it.”


On a more positive note, the CDC notes that more people – especially those over the age of 60 – are aware of and being treated for the condition. Still, CDC data shows that one in five don’t know they have the condition. Dr. Meigs recommends observing American Heart Month by taking steps to prevent heart disease.


“Get your blood pressure checked. If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to treat it and lower your risk factors,” he says. “That same advice applies to knowing what your blood cholesterol levels are. You can work with your family physician to prevent or reduce the risk factors that lead to heart disease. Learn about heart health and what you can do in your everyday life to stay healthy.”


For more Heart Month coverage from the California Medical Association, follow @cmaphysicians on Twitter and Facebook.

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