Novartis Foundation

The High Stakes of Hypertension

Hypertension affects one billion people worldwide, and is responsible for nearly ten million deaths, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. In order to address it, international actors must work together with local communities to build innovative models that work even in difficult or under-resourced environments.

BASEL – Most of us know about hypertension – at least we think we do. We understand that abnormally high blood pressure puts us at greater risk of heart attacks and stroke. And we also know that it is linked to diet and lifestyle, and can be treated with the right medication. But many would say that hypertension is primarily a “rich-country” problem, implying that most affected people have access to the right knowledge and treatment. That is not the case at all.

Hypertension affects a staggering one billion people worldwide, and is responsible for nearly ten million deaths annually – as many as all infectious diseases combined. Furthermore, most of the disease burden from hypertension occurs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where people develop the disease at a younger age and experience worse outcomes than in high-income countries. You are far more likely to die from hypertension-related complications in Ghana, Mongolia, or Vietnam than you are in Britain, France, or the United States.

According to the World Health Organization the rates of hypertension in LMICs, are already the highest in the world, and are set to continue to rise rapidly. Cardiovascular disease – for which hypertension is the leading risk factor – now accounts for the highest disease burden globally and is the main cause of death in most LMICs.

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