Blood pressure control: ‘an urgent national health priority’

By Melanie Hinze

Effective population-level blood pressure control is an urgent national health priority, an Australian expert has told Medicine Today.

Together with colleagues, Professor Alta Schutte, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine from The George Institute, Sydney, and UNSW Sydney, conducted a study to assess where raised systolic blood pressure (SBP) ranked among other risk factors in terms of overall and cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden in Australia, and whether this had changed over time.

Published in PLoS ONE, the study analysed epidemiological data from the 2019 Global Burden of Disease database between 1990 and 2019 to determine the leading risk factors associated with all-cause and CVD deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), over time and between gender and age groups, with a focus on Australia. The researchers compared the findings with the Australian Burden of Diseases Study.

Professor Schutte and her coauthors found that raised SBP remained the leading risk factor for attributable all-cause deaths in Australia, ahead of both dietary risk and tobacco use.

The contributions of raised SBP to cardiovascular deaths were 54.0% for both men and women in 1990, 44.0% in 2010, and 43.7% in 2019. Although the contribution of raised SBP to cardiovascular deaths declined between 1990 and 2010, it increased in men from 2010 onwards with figures of 43.1% in 2010 and 43.5% in 2019.

The contribution of raised SBP to stroke-related deaths and DALYs in men aged 25 to 49 years was in excess of 60% – much higher than other age groups – and it increased steeply between 2010 and 2019.

Professor Schutte, lead author of this research, said ‘Australia lags well behind other high-income countries in blood pressure control and this study shows it is time for us to act.’

She noted that the National Hypertension Taskforce had launched its actionable roadmap in March 2024 as a call to action to reach the Taskforce’s goal of increasing Australia’s controlled blood pressure from 32% to 70% by 2030.

The National Hypertension Taskforce, a joint initiative of Hypertension Australia and the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, was established in 2022.

‘The best approaches we have are to prevent, detect and effectively treat raised blood pressure to prevent heart disease, stroke and kidney disease,’ Professor Schutte told Medicine Today.

PLoS ONE 2024; 19(2): e0297229.