WHO: Africa Has the Highest Rate of High Blood Pressure in the World

Caroline Theuri December 22, 2016
WHO recommends that improved access to community-based blood pressure screening devices can reduce high hypertension rates in Africa. Photo Credit: NPR.

Africa has the highest rate of high blood pressure globally at 46 percent, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which reveals that one in three African adults suffers from the condition. The disease is prevalent in half of the countries on the continent. Out of surveillance studies in 31 countries, the prevalence of the disease in African adults ranges from 17 percent to 40 percent, with a median rate of 31 percent.

The disease is most prevalent in Seychelles, Cape Verde, Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, São Tomé and Príncipe, Niger, and Zimbabwe, according to the report titled “Report on the Status of Major Health Risk Factors for Non-Communicable Diseases: WHO Africa Region, 2015.”

“Conversely, high blood pressure is less prevalent in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gabon, Togo, Eritrea, and Mali,” notes the report.

In a survey of 34 African countries, the WHO report found that high blood pressure on the continent affects more men than women.

High blood pressure occurs when there is an excessive flow of blood through the blood vessels. Age, alcohol consumption, genetic makeup, lack of exercise, and being overweight are among the factors that can cause high blood pressure.

The countries with the lowest level of physical exercise is Mozambique, with 6.5 percent. Mauritania registered the highest level of physical exercise at 51 percent and was followed by Cameroon and the DRC, each at 44 percent.

The report also revealed that more African women are overweight in comparison to their male counterparts.

Effects of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure leads to kidney failure and renovascular hypertension, in addition to convulsion in pregnant women. The condition is a leading cause of death around the world and is responsible for 45 percent of heart disease cases and 50 percent of deaths caused by stroke.

High blood pressure often goes undetected during its early stages and patients are hardly aware of its symptoms at first. Many Africans who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure lack access to treatment and may eventually die from it.

Doctors say its prevalance can be reduced in Africa by improving the access to community-based blood pressure screening devices for people seeking a diagnosis.


Last Edited by:Charles Gichane Updated: June 19, 2018


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