UAE Press: Treating high blood pressure may soon be as easy as getting a Covid jab

UAE Press: Treating high blood pressure may soon be as easy as getting a Covid jab

ABU DHABI, 28th April, 2022 (WAM) -- A local English daily has highlighted the latest developments in medical treatments for hypertension. "One in eight deaths worldwide is thought to be the result of high blood pressure, or hypertension," The National pointed out in its editorial on Thursday.

"If you don’t know your blood pressure, it’s like not knowing the value of your company," the newspaper quoted the Turkish-American heart surgeon and TV personality Dr Mehmet Oz as saying. Left untreated, the condition raises the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other severe health problems, and it affects, on average, a quarter of men and a fifth of women. In certain places, the figures are far higher – in Central and Eastern Europe, it is as many as 40 percent of men, and in the Sahel, more than a third of women.

In the Middle East, hypertension levels are also high, ranging from 20 percent in Iran to 30 percent in Oman. Across the GCC, more than a third of adults have hypertension or diabetes, or both, and the average patient with heart disease is almost a decade younger than in the West, according to a recent paper by two Oman-based doctors in the Journal of Human Hypertension (JHH), the daily explained.

The condition is so prevalent that there is hardly a medical practice in the world where doctors do not start an exam by taking a patient’s blood pressure. Where the condition is chronic, they commonly prescribe daily tablets. The global market for antihypertensive drugs is worth more than US$20 billion, and is expected to reach US$30 billion by the end of the decade, the editorial noted.

This week, doctors in the UK announced trials for a new course of treatment that, if successful, could revolutionise the industry, and transform the lives of people who suffer from chronic hypertension. The answer, doctors from Queen Mary University London and the UK National Health Service believe, could be a twice-yearly injection. The causes of hypertension are often a mystery, though not always. In some cases, it is thought to be genetic. In most cases, however, lifestyle factors are clearly at play, the daily explained.

In another paper in JHH, published last year, Drs. Majd Abboud and Sabine Karam from St George Hospital University Medical Centre in Beirut write that, in the Middle East, "modifiable factors" are a major cause. They include the usual suspects – "excessively high rates of smoking and obesity". That these are all "modifiable factors", by definition, suggests the obvious: that prevention is really the best cure. Individuals can keep their own blood pressure low through diet and exercise, first and foremost, but they can also help their families by ensuring a more healthy environment for their children. Some experts have suggested that suspected genetic causes for hypertension may be down to the fact that families usually have similar lifestyles, the newspaper said.

But Drs. Abboud and Karam also point to other, more macro causes, including "suboptimal healthcare systems, socio-economic factors and disparities in education, literacy and urbanisation", all of which affect public awareness and doctors’ ability to prescribe treatments in time. Some studies have also attributed hypertension in adults to environmental factors they experienced as children, such as exposure to lead, air pollution and even noise, the editorial noted.

Clearly, tackling this particular problem once and for all will require a society-wide effort that spans ordinary citizens as well as policymakers. That means the battle ahead is a long one. But in the meantime, if the injection trials in the UK show good results, those who struggle with high blood pressure may find their lives become a little easier, concluded The National.