High BP behind 13% of all global deaths

[Publication: Times Of India Bangalore; Date: Oct 29, 2009; Section: Times Nation; Page: 11]

High blood pressure is the world’s leading risk factor for mortality, being responsible for 13% of all deaths globally.

    It is followed by tobacco use (8.7%), high blood glucose (5.8%), physical inactivity (5.5%), obesity (4.8%) and high cholesterol (4.5%) which among them contribute to almost 30% of all deaths globally. According to the World Health Organisation’s latest global health risks report, high BP, high blood glucose, physical inactivity, childhood malnutrition and unavailability of clean water and sanitation are the top five global health risks.

    Addressing these five factors alone — that are responsible for one-quarter of the 60 million deaths estimated to occur annually — can increase global life expectancy by nearly five years, WHO said. “More than a third of global child deaths can be attributed to a few nutritional risk factors such as low childhood weight, inadequate breastfeeding and zinc deficiency,” said Colin Mathers, coordinator for mortality and burden of disease at WHO.

    Eight risk factors account for over 75% of cases of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. These are alcohol consumption, high blood glucose, tobacco use, high BP, high body mass index, high cholesterol, low fruit and vegetable intake and physical inactivity. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries. The report said obesity caused more deaths than underweight globally.

    Unhealthy and unsafe environments caused one in four child deaths worldwide. WHO said that in low-income countries, easily remedied nutritional deficiencies prevented one in 38 newborns from reaching the age of five.

    According to experts in India, the WHO report should come as a warning signal, specially for India which has the world’s largest number of people with high BP. Over 10 crore Indian adults presently suffer from high BP, the measure of the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. India also has the highest number of people with high blood glucose.

    So what is causing so many people in India to suffer from high BP? Dr Ashok Seth, chairman and chief cardiologist of Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, said, “Lifestyle factors, such as physical inactivity, a salt-rich diet with fried and fatty foods, and alcohol and tobacco consumption are some of the main reasons behind this epidemic. BP should be under control at all ages.”

    Chief of Max Hospital’s interventional cardiology unit Dr Deepak Natarajan said, “WHO recently pointed out that in 2007, seven million people died of heart attacks and an equal number due to stroke. The common risk factor between the two is high BP. What’s worse, in India, 50% people don’t know they have high BP. Of the rest, 25% aren’t even being treated for it. People should therefore come forward and always get their BP checked.”

    A silent killer that has become the single most important factor causing strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, blindness and paralysis, high BP affects 30% of India’s urban population and 10% of rural folk. Cardiologists say that even a slight reduction of high BP can make a huge difference to a patient’s health. “If prehypertension is reduced, 40% of heart attacks can be prevented. If 5 mm of BP is reduced, 21% mortality can be reduced. For every kg you lose, your BP will come down by 1 mm,” Dr K K Agarwal from Moolchand Hospital said.

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