Study: Leading cause of preventable death is out of control

A study of more than 153,000 people across 17 countries has found that close to half of those with hypertension are unaware they have the condition, which is the leading cause of preventable mortality and morbidity globally. The findings published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) today also show that of those who had been diagnosed, two thirds are not receiving adequate drug therapy for their condition.

Results indicated that just 46.5 per cent of participants with hypertension were aware of their diagnosis and 32.5 per cent of those receiving treatment had achieved blood pressure control.

Hypertension is associated with at least 7.6 million deaths per year worldwide – representing 13.5 per cent of all deaths – making it the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In Australia, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, killing one Australian every 12 minutes.

Hypertension analysis in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study – the largest multi-country study of its kind – was led by Dr Clara Chow from The George Institute for Global Health and University of Sydney.

“It’s alarming that more than half of people with hypertension are unaware of their condition, and among those identified very few are taking enough treatment to adequately control their blood pressure,” said Dr Chow.

“While treatments are well known and generally inexpensive, the study found that only around one third of patients aware of their condition were achieving target blood pressure control. The impact is seen most acutely in low income countries, but is still significant in high and middle income countries.

“There is a huge gap between detection and control of hypertension, and a significant need for better diagnosis and treatment.”

Dr Salim Yusuf, Professor of Medicine at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, said: “These findings indicate a need for systematic efforts to better detect those with high blood pressure. Treatment involving a combination of therapies at an earlier point during medical intervention may be required.”

The PURE study involved adults from the general population of 17 high, middle and low income countries. The three high income countries included - Canada, Sweden, and United Arab Emirates; 10 middle income countries - Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa, China, Colombia, Iran; and four low income countries - Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Participants had their blood pressure and use of medications recorded, along with information about their age, sex, education and key risk factors including whether they were aware they had hypertension.

For the original publication in The Journal of the American Medical Association click here.