Awareness and seeking medical care critical to keeping hypertension in control

Did you know that only 50 per cent of the people who suffer from hypertension are aware of their condition, only 50 per cent from among them actually seek medical care and further more, hypertension is under control in only 50 per cent of them which is popularly known as the rule of the halves?

That is why the World Hypertension Day on May 17 this year is dedicated to "know your blood pressure". According to the WHO’s World Health Report 2012, it is noted that around three out of ten adults suffer from hypertension worldwide. Globally, approximately 1.8 billion suffer from hypertension.

Studies done in India show that the prevalence of hypertension in urban and rural population ranges from 13.9 to 46.3% and 4.5 to 58.8%, respectively (data from the AMEND study). Research from The George Institute of Global Health in rural Andhra Pradesh found that 29% of the adult population had hypertension and of these only 44% were on treatment.

A new study funded by the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease (GACD) and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, aims to estimate prevalence, awareness and treatment of hypertension and identify barriers to hypertension control in rural communities in India. This study will also aim to develop strategies to better manage hypertension in rural communities.

The study is being done in collaboration with Monash University, The George Institute for Global Health – India, George Institute for Global Health,Australia, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Rishi Valley Rural Health Centre, and Christian Medical College Vellore. It is being conducted in areas around Trivandrum and rural communities in Chittoor and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh. The study in the West Godavari area is being led by The George Institute.

The study is part of a larger co-ordinated funding effort by member organizations of the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD) on hypertension prevention and control in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that focuses on implementing effective approaches to control high blood pressure through community-based research projects. Government funding agencies including the Indian Council of Medical Research, is a member of the GACD. Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, one of the member organizations of GACD, is supporting five of these projects.

Each research project is conducted through a partnership between investigators in a high income country institution and investigators in LMIC. "With a focus on implementing effective interventions that can be used within LMICs and potentially expanded to similar environments, the projects provide a unique opportunity for researchers to collaborate and share study findings on a global level and to help further address global health disparities,” says Dr Rohina Joshi, Senior Research Fellow, The George Institute for Global Health, Australia, University of Sydney.

Hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure is elevated to a level at or above 140/90 mmHg. This medical condition is called as silent killer as it does not show any clear symptoms, however, severe hypertension shows some symptoms such as headaches, sleepiness, palpitations, blurred vision, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, ringing sensation in the ears, breathing difficulty, or irregular heartbeat which may lead to even stroke.

World Hypertension Day is celebrated every year on 17th of May to raise the public awareness about the hypertension, its preventive measures and complications. It was initiated by the World Hypertension League (WHL) and was first celebrated on 14th of May in the year 2005. The theme of the World Hypertension Day 2014, is "Know your Blood Pressure."

"Very little is known about the emergence of hypertension in rural India, where 70 per cent of the Indian population still resides," says Dr Rama K. Guggilla, Research Fellow, George Institute for Global Health, India, adding that "while people should get their blood pressure checked regularly, we still do not know what prevents them from doing so."

There is some evidence that barriers to hypertension control differ according to the stage of transition of the population. "An improved understanding of the awareness of hypertension in different settings and the barriers to prevention, diagnosis and treatment will provide the critical knowledge base we need to overcome these barriers in these differing settings," adds Dr Guggilla.