Researchers in Ghana adopt innovative strategies to control community hypertension

There are more than 700 million people with untreated hypertension globally with the number of people living with the condition doubling to 1.28 billion since 1990.

Information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) obtained by shows that the number of adults aged 30 -79 years with hypertension increased from 650 million to 1.28 billion in the last thirty years.

This is contained in the first comprehensive global analysis of trends in hypertension prevalence, detection, treatment and control, led by Imperial College London and WHO, and published in The Lancet.

The analysis, released recently, shows that nearly half the people in the study did not know they had hypertension. The study, conducted by a global network of physicians and researchers, covered the period 1990–2019.

It used blood pressure measurement and treatment data from over 100 million people aged 30-79 years in 184 countries, together covering 99 per cent of the global population, which makes it the most comprehensive review of global trends in hypertension to date.

It is in line with some of these global concerns about the rise in hypertension cases and ignorance associated with the condition, that the Kintampo Health Research Centre has over the past few years been researching into non-communicable diseases.

It has recently conducted a community-based-research into hypertension in the Kintampo area, with about 25 per cent of adults in the community having hypertension. Out of this 25 per cent, 50 per cent did not know they had the condition.

The KHRC has now adopted a strategy by using community health nurses to also check for blood pressure in addition to other services they provide during visits to the community as part of the strategy to create awareness and educate people on the condition.

Dr. John Amoah, a research fellow at KHRC, who was involved in the hypertension study, told a team of journalists that previously these nurses did not include the checking of blood pressure during their routine visits to the community but this has changed following the KHRC’s study.

He mentioned high salt intake, alcohol, smoking and lack of exercise as predisposing factors in getting hypertension.

Dr. Amoah said although hypertension is common in adults, adolescents could develop the condition and urged that they need to be educated to exercise and also adopt health lifestyles.

According to the WHO, hypertension significantly increases the risk of heart, brain and kidney diseases, and is one of the top causes of death and disease throughout the world.

It can be easily detected through measuring blood pressure, at home or in a health centre, and can often be treated effectively with medications that are low cost.

The global body said cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year.

CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions.

More than four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age.

The most important behavioural risk factors of heart disease and stroke are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, said the WHO.

Adding that the effects of behavioural risk factors may show up in individuals as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and overweight and obesity.

The WHO has therefore called for the cessation of tobacco use, reduction of salt in the diet, eating more fruit and vegetables, regular physical activity and avoiding harmful use of alcohol, which have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

By Eunice Menka
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