Updated 29 May 2015

Global blood pressure programme could save millions

Improving access to care and blood pressure treatment is key to saving lives, especially in lower-income countries.


Treating half of people with uncontrolled high blood pressure could prevent 10 million heart attacks and strokes worldwide over 10 years, according to experts.

Low to middle income sufferers

Most people with uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) are in low- and middle-income countries and have poor access to diagnosis, care and treatment, said the authors of a commentary published in The Lancet.

In an effort to get those people into treatment and reduce their risk of premature death, a new programme called the Global Standardised Hypertension Treatment Project has been launched by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

"Heart disease and stroke are silent killers – on a mass scale. Cardiovascular disease kills more people around the world than all infectious diseases combined," CDC director and commentary co-author Dr. Tom Frieden, said in a CDC news release.

Read: Is high blood pressure bad?

"Hypertension is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and the question is not whether treatment of hypertension should be undertaken on a global scale, but how quickly effective programmes can be established," he added.

Each year, high blood pressure kills 9.4 million people worldwide, about the same number as deaths from all infectious diseases.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the world, according to the experts.

250 million people in America alone

"Hypertension affects some 250 million people in the Americas, and in most countries rates of blood pressure control are unacceptably low," Dr. Carissa Etienne, PAHO director, said in the news release.

This project holds tremendous potential for reducing early deaths, as well as the damaging economic effects heart disease has around the world, Etienne said.

Even though high blood pressure is probably the easiest chronic non-infectious disease to treat, only 13 percent of the 1 billion people worldwide with high blood pressure have it under control, the experts pointed out.

Read: 13 high blood pressure facts

High blood pressure treatments can be made relatively inexpensive, even for people in low- and middle-income countries, according to the commentary authors.

Four principles

The new programme is based on four principles:

  • Developing standardised treatment approaches.
  • Recognition that all members of a health care team play a crucial role in controlling blood pressure.
  • Elimination of cost barriers for patients and make refilling prescriptions easier.
  • Close tracking of patients' blood pressure and improvements.

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Image: Doctor checking woman blood pressure from Shutterstock


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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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