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Millions unaware of ticking hypertension time bomb

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Almost half of patients with hypertension are unaware they have the potentially life-threatening condition, an Australian-led international study has found.

The research, conducted in 17 countries and involving more than 153,000 people, showed that two thirds of those diagnosed with hypertension did not receive adequate care for their condition.

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a majority of those who knew they had high blood pressure received drug treatment for hypertension. However, only a third of those had their hypertension under control.

There is a significant need for better diagnosis and treatment.

Senior author and Professor of Medicine at McMaster University, Dr Salim Yusuf, said that drug treatments that work to control hypertension were well known. 

Associate Professor Clara Chow, from The George Institute of Global Health, and the University of Sydney, agreed, and said treatments were generally inexpensive – but only about one third of patients were achieving their target blood pressure.

“The results are alarming,” Associate Professor Chow said.

Associate Professor Chow and her colleagues organised the study in three high-income countries: Canada, Sweden, and United Arab Emirates; 10 middle-income countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa, China, Colombia, and Iran; and four low-income countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe.

“Although Australia is not included in the study, it faces similar problems,” she said.

Another major issue with patients who are unaware of hypertension, is lack of symptoms. Patients tend to resist taking daily doses of medication if they do not see or feel any major symptoms.

“Australians should realise from this that hypertension is exceedingly common and nearly half of us are walking around with it, not knowing that our blood pressure is high.

“Australians should have regular annual checks,” Associate Professor Chow said.

Sanja Novakovic