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Ethn Dis. 2003 Summer;13(2 Suppl 2):S48-52.

High blood pressure: the foundation for epidemic cardiovascular disease in African populations.

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Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Illinois 60153, USA.


High-blood pressure is a powerful independent risk factor for death from heart disease and stroke. It is also a common clinical condition affecting more than 600 million persons worldwide and seen in nearly all populations. Although reliable, large-scale, population-based data on high blood pressure in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are limited, recent studies provide important and worrisome findings in both epidemiology and clinical outcomes. Although overall hypertension prevalence is between 10%-15%, prevalence rates as high as 30%-32% have been reported in middle-income urban and some rural areas. Importantly, hypertension awareness, treatment, and control rates as low as 20%, 10%, and 1%, respectively have also been found. Stroke has been by far the most common clinical sequela. In most SSA settings, hypertension control assumes a relatively low priority and little experience exists in implementing sustainable and successful programs for drug treatment. Rapid urbanization and transition from agrarian life to the wage-earning economy of city life continue to fuel increases in average blood pressure levels and prevalence of hypertension. Although the true burden of high blood pressure in sub-Saharan Africa remains largely unmeasured, compelling preliminary evidence suggests that it is the foundation for epidemic cardiovascular disease in Africa and already contributes substantively to death and disability from stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure in this region. Success in limiting this epidemic in SSA will depend heavily on the implementation of sustainable and aggressive population-based programs for high blood pressure awareness, prevention, treatment, and control. It will be critical to obtain investments in improved surveillance and program-relevant research to provide the evidence base for policy development and effective hypertension prevention and control.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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