India is one of almost 100 countries participating in a global drive to raise awareness of hypertension.
May Measurement Month (MMM) was billed as “one of the biggest public screening exercises the world’s ever seen.” Jointly led by the International Society of Hypertension (ISH) and the World Hypertension League (WHL), MMM expected an outreach of around 25 million people, who were screened for high blood pressure. It was launched May 1 in India.
The drive in India was a joint effort between several key government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs), led by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It took place across five hundred sites in the country, looking to cover 2.5 million (25 lakh) people in the 18-65 age demographic.
The impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is one India is feeling more and more every year. It will have dire implications for the population in the near future.
“Likely to end up being an epidemic in the near future”
Hypertension is of particular concern in India at the moment, as “it is likely to end up being an epidemic in the near future.” A 2014 study places “overall prevalence of hypertension in India” at 29.8 percent. The rate is higher in urban than rural areas – estimated at 20-40 percent in the former and 12-17 percent in the latter.
Alarmingly, few hypertensive Indians are aware of their status. Fewer still receive treatment. In urban areas, 42 percent of hypertensive people know of their condition. Just 38 percent receive treatment. In rural India, only a quarter of those with hypertension know of their condition and are treated for it.
This is concerning because having high blood pressure increases the risk of strokes, dementia, heart, and kidney disease. These are all diseases which could kill 25 percent of Indians before they reach 70. A number of environmental factors in India – such as air pollution – increase the risks further.
Initiatives such as MMM are positive steps towards raising awareness of the dangers posed by hypertension in India. However, work must be done to ensure there is access to treatment – especially in rural areas, where medical coverage and resources are lacking.