High Blood Pressure Will Affect Billions Worldwide

January 14, 2005

Madeline Vann
Phone: 504-247-1425

Tulane University public health researchers predict that by 2025, approximately one in three adults over age 20 - or 1.56 billion people worldwide - will have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most important preventable risk factor for heart attack, the leading cause of death in the US; stroke, the third leading cause of death in the US; and kidney disease.

The study appears in the January 15 edition of The Lancet, the most prestigious and widely read international medical journal. Epidemiologist Jiang He lead a team of researchers from the department of epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in an effort to analyze hypertension studies conducted around the world to assess the global burden of the disease.

The researchers expect a 60 percent increase in adults with high blood pressure over the next 20 years. Their results showed that in 2000 approximately one in four adults had high blood pressure. Of the estimated 972 million adults with high blood pressure in 2000, 639 million were in economically developing countries.

"Hypertension disproportionately affects people in less economically developed countries," He observes. "Not only are there greater numbers of people with high blood pressure in these countries but their governments and citizens lack the resources to prevent, detect and adequately treat hypertension, which ultimately contributes to high rates of early death from heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. By 2025 nearly three out of every four persons with high blood pressure will be living in an economically developing country."

"High blood pressure is a modifiable risk factor for life-threatening, chronic diseases," he says. "The international community should find ways to advocate for low-cost lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of high blood pressure."

He recommends interventions focusing on losing weight, reducing salt intake, moderating alcohol consumption, increasing potassium intake and changing diet and exercise habits. These changes would also have a positive effect on risks of obesity and type 2 diabetes, He says. The team analyzed data from 30 studies done around the world, representing over 500,000 adults over age 20. The first author of this paper is Patricia Kearney, a doctoral student in Epidemiology.

The coauthors include Megan Whelton, a master's degree student in Epidemiology; Kristi Reynolds; Paul Muntner; and Paul Whelton, faculty members in the Department of Epidemiology and Tulane Hypertension and Renal Center of Excellence.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000