Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a serious medical condition that is one of the leading causes of death in the world. After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, there is enough evidence that people with high blood pressure are more likely to get severely sick or die if they get Covid-19.
In India almost 30 per cent of adults have hypertension, and an alarmingly high number are unaware of their condition. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a serious medical condition that is responsible for at least 10.4 million deaths and 218 million disability-adjusted life years (DALY) globally.
Experts at the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) expressed concerns over the increasing incidence of hypertension — a silent killer — that can add to the burden of disease in a country ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have postponed regular visits for chronic health conditions such as hypertension. Paradoxically, hypertensive patients who develop Covid-19 are more likely to be admitted to hospital than normotensive individuals. The presence of hypertension also seems to be associated with poorer outcomes from Covid-19.
“It is important for people who have high blood pressure or hypertension to continue to take their medications as prescribed, especially during the pandemic and to self-monitor their blood pressure at home when and if they can," said experts at the launch of Project PrACHI (Prioritizing Advocacy for Control of Hypertension in India), a nationwide campaign supported by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), to accelerate hypertension control and treatment in India.
“India is going through an epidemiological transition. We must act now. Responding to this crisis, we at FPA India have decided to bring decades of experience in strengthening health systems to work on creating more opportunities for identifying care gaps, bringing about inter-sectoral collaboration and pooling resources so that no opportunity is missed to screen, treat and control hypertension, across all age-groups, geographies and socio-economic strata," said Kalpana Apte, Secretary General, FPAI.
Worldover 1.13 billion people live with this chronic condition. In India, untreated and uncontrolled Blood Pressure (BP), has become a leading cause for premature death and disability.
Almost one in five women aged 15-49 years in India has undiagnosed hypertension with implications for personal and reproductive health, notes Sonu Goel, Professor, Department of Community Medicine, PGIMER.
According to Vandana Shah, Regional Director, GHAI, “a high prevalence of hypertension exacts a tremendous price on public health. The pandemic has shown us how people living with chronic conditions like hypertension can become sicker and be more at risk of dying."
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), primarily ischaemic heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for 17.7 million deaths annually. WHO estimates that India accounts for over a fifth of these deaths. Awareness of hypertension in India is low while appropriate treatment and control are even lower. Undetected and untreated hypertension has been ranked as the highest risk factor for heart disease and related deaths.
Unless blood pressure is measured, hypertension cannot be detected, since it has no symptoms. Demographers, doctors and public health experts gave a clarion call to consider treatment and management of hypertension as a public health priority for India.
Rathnamala Desai, President, FPA India said that regular preventive health check-ups should be especially encouraged among the younger working age (35-65 years) and women in the reproductive age to pick up underlying hypertension, which can potentially lead to adverse cardiovascular or reproductive health events.