Journal Article

Variation in the Proportion of Adults in Need of BP-Lowering Medications by Hypertension Care Guideline in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Cross-Sectional Study of 1,037,215 Individuals from 50 Nationally Representative Surveys

Authors

  • Nikkil Sudharsanan
  • Michaela Theilmann
  • Tabea K. Kirschbaum
  • Jennifer Manne-Goehler
  • Sina Azadnajafabad
  • Pascal Bovet
  • Simiao Chen
  • Albertino Damasceno
  • Jan-Walter De Neve
  • Maria Dorobantu
  • Cara Ebert
  • Farshad Farzadfar
  • Gladwell Gathecha
  • Mongal Singh Gurung
  • Kosar Jamshidi
  • Jutta M.A. Jørgensen
  • Demetre Labadarios
  • Julia M Lemp
  • Nuno Lunet
  • Joseph K. Mwangi
  • Sahar Saeedi Moghaddam
  • Silver K. Bahendeka
  • Zhaxybay Zhumadilov
  • Till W Bärnighausen
  • Sebastian Vollmer
  • Rifat Atun
  • Justine I. Davies
  • Pascal Geldsetzer
Publication Date

Background: Current hypertension guidelines vary substantially in their definition of who should be offered blood pressure-lowering medications. Understanding the effect of guideline choice on the proportion of adults who require treatment is crucial for planning and scaling up hypertension care in low- and middle-income countries.

Methods: We extracted cross-sectional data on age, sex, blood pressure, hypertension treatment and diagnosis status, smoking, and body mass index for adults 30 to 70 years of age from nationally representative surveys in 50 low- and middle-income countries (N = 1 037 215). We aimed to determine the effect of hypertension guideline choice on the proportion of adults in need of blood pressure-lowering medications. We considered 4 hypertension guidelines: the 2017 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guideline, the commonly used 140/90 mm Hg threshold, the 2016 World Health Organization HEARTS guideline, and the 2019 UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline.

Results: The proportion of adults in need of blood pressure-lowering medications was highest under the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association, followed by the 140/90 mm Hg, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and World Health Organization guidelines (American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association: women, 27.7% [95% CI, 27.2-28.2], men, 35.0% [95% CI, 34.4-35.7]; 140/90 mm Hg: women, 26.1% [95% CI, 25.5-26.6], men, 31.2% [95% CI, 30.6-31.9]; National Institute for Health and Care Excellence: women, 11.8% [95% CI, 11.4-12.1], men, 15.7% [95% CI, 15.3-16.2]; World Health Organization: women, 9.2% [95% CI, 8.9-9.5], men, 11.0% [95% CI, 10.6-11.4]). Individuals who were unaware that they have hypertension were the primary contributor to differences in the proportion needing treatment under different guideline criteria. Differences in the proportion needing blood pressure-lowering medications were largest in the oldest (65-69 years) age group (American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association: women, 60.2% [95% CI, 58.8-61.6], men, 70.1% [95% CI, 68.8-71.3]; World Health Organization: women, 20.1% [95% CI, 18.8-21.3], men, 24.1.0% [95% CI, 22.3-25.9]). For both women and men and across all guidelines, countries in the European and Eastern Mediterranean regions had the highest proportion of adults in need of blood pressure-lowering medicines, whereas the South and Central Americas had the lowest.

Conclusions: There was substantial variation in the proportion of adults in need of blood pressure-lowering medications depending on which hypertension guideline was used. Given the great implications of this choice for health system capacity, policy makers will need to carefully consider which guideline they should adopt when scaling up hypertension care in their country.

Kiel Institute Expert

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