Most hypertensive patients unaware of their disease: Study

Although the hypertension (high blood pressure) is often labeled as a silent killer, most of its patients (about 89 percent) are unaware of their diseases, according to a recent study.

The study identifies one of the riskiest aspects of hypertension is that people do not know they have hypertension. In most of the cases, high blood pressure is found when patients visit healthcare provider, having it checked elsewhere or seeing a physician for unrelated problems.

The Centre for Control of Chronic Diseases (CCCD) conducted the study on health seeking behaviour and health systems response to find out the consequences of hypertension on household functioning in Bangladesh.

During the study, the researchers included adult people living in the rural Matlab (Chandpur) and urban Kamalapur (Dhaka) field sites of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B). The study surveyed 1,678 men and 823 women from Kamalapur and 855 people from Matlab.

The researchers found that among the 246 individuals found to have hypertension in the Kamalapur field site about 86 percent were unaware of having this health problem. Out of 140 cases of hypertension found in the Matlab, 92.7 percent of individuals were unaware of having hypertension.

According to an expert, hypertension is considered as a silent killer, as it can remain unrecognised for years, showing no symptoms but causing progressive damage to the heart, other organs and blood vessels.

Prof Dr Prabhat Chandra Barua, former chairperson of the Community Medicine Department at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH), told UNB that there are two kinds of hypertension -– primary hypertension and secondary hypertension, but about 90 percent of patients suffer from primary hypertension.

He identified a number of reasons behind the hypertension as high ambition, mental depression, anxiety, keeping awake at night and irregularities in taking meal.

Terming hypertension as a controllable and preventable disease, Dr Prabhat Chandra said that untreated hypertension can lead to serious diseases, including heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure.

“Chronic hypertension also leads to the physical disability (paralysis) and brain hemorrhage, which affects a long-term economic burden for the poor,” he said.

Dr Prabhat Chandra Barua, a former director of the Health Directorate, said people think that non-communicable diseases are health problem in developed countries, but 80 percent of chronic disease deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like Bangladesh.

According to the CCCD study, among those who were already aware of being hypertensive, 49.6 percent learned of it from MBBS doctors and 28.7 percent from pharmacists.

The study revealed that among the hypertensive patients, only 51.2 percent in Kamalapur and 58.6 percent in Matlab sought treatment after learning that they have this health problem. The treatment sought was higher among the female patients compared to males in both Kamlapur and Matlab.

The researchers found that most of the hypertensive patients go to village doctors for treatment. In Matlab, 47.6 percent patients went to village doctors during data collection of the study, and only 3.7 percent went to MBBS doctors at the government healthcare centres.

The study results showed that prevalence of hypertension, patients’ lack of knowledge about the disease and the care-seeking behaviour of hypertensive patients point to the need for a focused approach to high blood pressure in both rural and urban areas of Bangladesh.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs are responsible for 63 percent of the 57 million deaths that occurred in 2008. NCD risk factors are a leading cause of the death and disability burden in nearly all countries, regardless of economic development.

The leading risk factor globally for mortality is high blood pressure (responsible for 13 percent of deaths globally), followed by tobacco use and elevated blood glucose.

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