Uncontrolled hypertension is becoming a major cause of health concern among elderly Indians with about 45 percent of Indians aged 45 and above suffering from hypertension and another 40 per cent with pre-hypertension, leaving them vulnerable to heart attack and stroke which at times can be fatal or debilitating too, researchers have found.
Using data from the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI, Wave 1, published in January), the researchers from Department of Community Medicine of the premier Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS), BHU and GRID council arrived to the disturbing conclusion after undertaking a secondary analysis of the hypertension burden and control rates in the ageing population of the country. Shortage in diagnosis and treatment facilities was also observed.
Professor BR Mittal, Director, IMS, BHU said, “Even as the average lifespan has increased and survivorship is on the rise in India due to advancements in medical science and overall development, hypertension, the most prominent risk factor for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease, often remains underdiagnosed and undertreated in the population at large.
“Our team decided to study the LASI data for a critical analysis of this silent epidemic. Based on this analysis, it was noted with concern that 45 per cent adult Indians were hypertensive and almost 30 percent had high blood pressure at any point of time for want of diagnosis and/ or control.
“We are planning to set up a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Secretariat with eminent faculty members at IMS, BHU to study the problem more closely and suggest a course of public health action.”
Ashim Sanyal, COO, Consumer VOICE emphasized that “Hypertension is a significant public health problem with no age bars. To overcome the problem, consumers should be aware of the health harms of foods which are rich in salt, sugar and fat. All the stakeholders including the policy makers should come forward in rolling out long term health check-up and health monitoring plans even at PHC level.”
With 40 per cent of the sample population studied by LASI found to be pre-hypertensive, there is a likelihood that the disease burden will rise even further in the coming years unless robust action is taken.
Describing this analysis as a tool to better understand an underlying public health crisis, Professor Chander Shekhar, Co-Principal Investigator for LASI said, “This situation analysis of hypertension in India, derived from LASI data can help improve a major public health problem and call for programmatic interventions. The focus of the intervention strategies should be universal screening and adherence to treatment.”
The experts recommended that central-government operated Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) should become a focal and self-sufficient point for treatment with better availability of medicines and with further investment in technological intervention such as telemedicine.