Nine in Ten South Africans with High Blood Pressure go Unscreened, Undiagnosed & Untreated

Image: Health Cleveland Clinic

Cardiovascular medicine distributor Pharma Dynamics says High blood pressure (hypertension) rates is a prevalence of urbanisation, an ageing population and a substantial increase in behavioural risk factors including alcohol consumption, smoking, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

According to research high blood pressure rates in Africa have climbed by more than 30% in the last decade with the continent now being the epicentre of the disease.

Hypertension affects an estimate 31% of men and 36% of women in South Africa and is the single biggest cause of premature death globally.

Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure typically shows no symptoms until it’s (often) too late.

Pharma Dynamics Nicole Jennings says nine in ten hypertensive adults in South Africa go unscreened, undiagnosed and untreated.

“This is in stark contrast to the USA where more than half (52%) of hypertensive adults are controlled and only 17% are undiagnosed. In SA, many are lost at the screening stage and even when screened, no diagnosis is made. Similarly, in cases, where treatment is given, many don’t take their medication as they should even though it’s available for free at public clinics.”

The latest South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES) shows that among those with hypertension:

–        48.7% go unscreened and undiagnosed;

–        23.1% are screened, but undiagnosed;

–        5.8% are diagnosed, but untreated;

–        13.5% are treated, but uncontrolled and;

–        8.9% are controlled.

Overall, women are also more likely to be screened and treated for high blood pressure than men.

Jennings adds that the study provides valuable insight into where patients are lost in the hypertension care continuum and serves as a benchmark for evaluating efforts to better manage the rising burden of hypertension in the country.

She says every day, 215 people die from heart disease or stroke, which are primarily as a result of uncontrolled hypertension. 

“Often, high blood pressure is detected too late when significant damage has already been done to the heart and arteries. A large percentage of our population have high blood pressure and don’t even know they do. This puts them at great risk of kidney disease, heart failure and stroke.” 

Per race, the coloured population (41.1%) are most at risk of hypertension, followed by white (38.9%), black (34.1%), and Indian/Asian/other (28.7%) populations. 

The SANHANES study also shows that hypertension is most prevalent in rural (39.6%) and urban (37.1%) areas and lowest in urban informal settlements.

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