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Hypertension goes mostly untreated

Hypertension is common in the Indian population, but treated only in a slim minority of patients. This is according to a recent study analysing a population sample of 731,864.

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According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, around 10.8 percent of deaths in India are attributable to hypertension. Despite this figure, achieving reasonably accurate estimates for the overall prevalence of hypertension are all but impossible. Numerous studies have tried to establish estimates and turned up significantly varied figures.

One study which compared cross-sectional surveys in urban and rural areas from 1991 to 1994 and 2010 to 2012 found a rise of 23.0 percent to 42.2 percent and 11.2 percent to 28.9 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively. This reflects that hypertension is showing a significant increase over time.

The recent study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine found lower results, with their sample of participants having a hypertension rate of 18.1 percent. There is a clear disparity between this result and that of other prior studies; however, this may be down to methodology, or the specific sample of individuals used.

More valuable information can be sourced from these results regarding diagnosis and treatment rates. The results paint a bleak picture that could account for the significant increases in heart disease in recent years, as hypertension is among the most main risk factors.

Among the sample population with hypertension, 76.1 percent had received at least one blood pressure measurement, 44.7 percent were aware of their diagnosis, 13.3 percent were undergoing treatment, and only 7.9 percent were deemed to have achieved control over their blood pressure.

For less than half of the population with hypertension to be aware of their condition is indicative of a lack of available information regarding the condition. This is not a surprising result, however, as the condition does not tend to show any symptoms unless blood pressure reaches highly damaging levels.

Assessing which populations are most at risk could help in achieving higher diagnosis rates. Urban dwellers are demonstrably more likely to have hypertension. The reasons for this are manifold. Sedentary lifestyles (as observed in many urban Indians’ desk jobs), poor dietary habits, and use of alcohol and tobacco are all factors which may contribute to developing hypertension.

These factors are not exclusive to urban areas, yet some tend to show higher rates within cities. Use of targeted blood pressure testing within known at-risk groups could allow large numbers of unknowing individuals with hypertension to be diagnosed and treated. Doing so could prove to be a financially viable move for state and city healthcare departments and the central government, as it could drastically reduce rates of heart disease, addressing risk factors before they cause extensive damage.

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