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Health

High blood pressure common among world’s poorest people

The study involved 1.2 million people in 76 low and middle-income countries.

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Beggars sit on barriers with homeless Please help messages.
Professor Yashashwi Pokhare of the Wake Forest School of Medicine described the global burden of high blood pressure as “dismal”
(Oakland Images/Shutterstock)

By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

High blood pressure is common among the poorest people in the world, a new study has revealed.

The condition is prevalent among the least well-off and least well-educated in low and middle-income countries, according to the researchers.

The Stanford University team says investment in steps that could reduce high blood pressure among these people is in short supply compared to other global health issues such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, has long been estimated to be the leading cause of death in low and middle-income countries but it had been thought the wealthy in those countries were primarily the ones affected by it.

For the study, the team looked at more than 1.2 million people in 76 low and middle-income countries across Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.

Participants had an average age of 40 and 58 percent of them were women.

The academics looked at hypertension rates across levels of socioeconomic status and education to determine links between them.

They also wanted to know whether and how the relationship between socioeconomic status and hypertension differs in different countries and regions across the globe.

They found differences in blood pressure levels between wealthy and poor people in poorer countries were small.

The findings will be surprising to some because the poorest people in the world often engage in intense physical activity through manual labor and are least likely to be obese or overweight.

The team says aging and pollution may be contributing to high blood pressure among these groups.

In Southeast Asia where there was a greater prevalence of hypertension in more educated and wealthier people, but differences were still small.

The study’s senior author Professor Pascal Geldsetzer from Stanford University said: “Achieving equity in health requires an understanding of which health conditions are most prevalent among the most socioeconomically disadvantaged segments of society.

“This is especially important for hypertension because those with low socioeconomic status are generally least able to access high-quality health care for strokes and heart attacks and are typically most dependent on their full health to earn a living.

“Policymakers who are concerned with improving health among the most disadvantaged groups may want to invest in improving hypertension prevention and control among these groups.

“This appears particularly justified given that we have found in previous research that adults with the least education and household wealth are least likely to be on treatment for their hypertension and ultimately achieve control of their blood pressure.”

In a linked editorial, Professor Yashashwi Pokhare from Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina said the global burden of high blood pressure is “dismal” and said there is not much data about the extent to which it affects different socioeconomic groups.

She added: “Now that we know that hypertension prevalence is not different in the poorest, the least educated or the least economically developed country as compared with their wealthier and educated counterparts, we should develop, test and implement effective strategies to enhance global equity in hypertension care.”

The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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