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High Blood Pressure Set to Soar Worldwide

Researchers Estimate 60% Increase by 2025
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WebMD Health News

Jan. 13, 2005 -- Twenty years from now, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide will have high blood pressure, new estimates show. If the prediction holds, it would mean a 60% increase since 2000.

The skyrocketing statistics appear in The Lancet's Jan. 15 edition. They're based on two decades of global data and have alarming implications, since high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for death as well as heart and kidney disease.

Immediate action is needed, say the researchers, who included Tulane University epidemiologist Jiang He, MD, PhD. High blood pressure is "an important public health challenge worldwide," they write. "Prevention, detection, treatment, and control of this condition should receive high priority."

High blood pressure is already common. It occurred in about 26% of adults in 2000, or 27% of men and 26% of women, say the researchers. That's a total of 972 million people.

Those numbers are rising fast. About 29% of the world's adults will have high blood pressure in 2025, the researchers predict. They expect to see it in slightly more women than men (30% vs. 29%).

Greatest Rise Expected in Economically Developing Countries

Today, high blood pressure is more often seen in economically developing countries.

The researchers predict an 80% increase in high blood pressure cases in developing countries by 2025. The numbers in those countries are projected to rise from 639 million cases in 2000 to 1.15 billion in 2025.

"Almost three quarters of the world's hypertensive population will be in economically developing countries by 2025," write the researchers.

That might be an underestimate. The predictions are based on current high blood pressure rates and expected population growth. If incidence rates rise, the numbers could be even higher than expected.

That's definitely possible, say the researchers. Economic development often changes lifestyles quickly. As countries gain wealth, people may start smoking, gaining weight, eating poorly, and being more inactive.

The global burden of high blood pressure supports predictions of a worldwide epidemic of cardiovascular disease, they write.

The whole world needs a high blood pressure makeover, write the researchers. "Changes in the lifestyles of the general population would result in a lower prevalence of high blood pressure," they conclude.

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