Kathmandu, May 23:
The World Health Statistics 2012, released Wednesday, puts the spotlight on the growing problem of blood pressure, diabetes and other non-communicable disease burden.
One in three adults worldwide, according to the report, has high blood pressure – a condition that causes around half of all deaths from stroke and heart diseases.
One in ten adults has diabetes. "This report is further evidence of the dramatic increase in the conditions that trigger heart diseases and other chronic illnesses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries," says Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO.
"In some African countries, as much as half the adult population has high blood pressure."
For the first time, the World Health Organization’s annual statistics includes information from 194 countries on the percentage of men and women with raised blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
In high-income countries, widespread diagnosis and treatment with low-cost medication have significantly reduced mean blood pressure across populations – and this has contributed to a reduction in deaths from heart disease.
In Africa, however, more than 40 per cent (and up to 50 per cent) of adults in many countries are estimated to have high blood pressure.
Most of these people remain undiagnosed, although many of these cases could be treated with low-cost medications, which would significantly reduce the risk of death and disability from heart disease and stroke, the report read.
Also included for the first time in the World Health Statistics 2012 are data on people with raised blood glucose levels.
While the global average prevalence is around 10 per cent, up to one third of populations in some Pacific Island countries have this condition. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, blindness and kidney failure.
"In every region of the world, obesity doubled between 1980 and 2008," says Dr Ties Boerma, director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO.
"Today, half a billion people (12 per cent of the world’s population) are considered obese." The highest obesity levels are in the WHO Region of the Americas (26 per cent of adults) and the lowest in the WHO South-East Asia Region (3 per cent obese). In all parts of the world, women are more likely to be obese than men, and thus at greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Non-communicable diseases currently cause almost two thirds of all deaths worldwide.
Global concern about the rise in numbers of deaths from heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer prompted the United Nations to hold a high-level meeting on non communicable diseases in New York in September 2011.