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Hypertension-driven disease rapidly rising in sub-Saharan Africa
Date:6/25/2013

Hypertension was the leading cause of death in patients more than 50 years old, and more than half of hypertension-related deaths occurred before age 65.

"Simply put, hypertension is the leading cause of non-communicable disease-related hospital mortality and healthcare utilization at our hospital," Dr. Peck says. "Nearly 10 percent of all adult hospital admissions at Weill Bugando were due to stroke, and stroke was the leading cause of hypertension-related death.

"This massive burden of stroke in sub-Saharan African countries such as Tanzania is likely due to the high prevalence of severe and untreated hypertension," he says. "Among adults in our region, nearly 20 percent have hypertension."

Need to screen for hypertension

The reasons for the rise of hypertension in Tanzania are not known, but Dr. Peck offers a few theories.

"Urbanization and industrialization are occurring very rapidly in sub-Saharan African countries such as Tanzania. Fifty years ago less than 10 percent of the sub-Saharan African population lived in cities; almost all Tanzanians were farmers who worked in the field and ate what they grew," he says.

"Now more than 50 percent of Tanzanians live in cities, and they work in non-labor jobs. Rapid urbanization and industrialization has also brought rapid changes in diet, including increased consumption of processed foods high in fat and salt. Still, typical Western fast food has not yet arrived here, and the prevalence of obesity here remains lower than in the U.S."

Dr. Peck adds that, as seen among African-Americans in the U.S., "there may be a predisposition to hypertension and stroke in Africa. We do not know that for sure. Nonetheless, adding rapid urbanization and change in diet and exercise to this predisposition could help explain this exploding epidemic."

Many things can be done to help, he says. "We need to increase community awareness of hypertension and its c
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Contact: Gerard Farrell
gerard.farrell@hkstrategies.com
646-317-7401
Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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