First WHO Report Details Devastating Impact of Hypertension and Ways to Stop It

NEW YORK, 19 SEPTEMBER 2023—The World Health Organization (WHO) released its first-ever report on the devastating global impact of high blood pressure, along with recommendations on  the ways to win the race against this silent killer. The report shows approximately 4 out of every  5 people with hypertension are not adequately treated, but if countries can scale up coverage,  76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050. 

Hypertension affects 1 in 3 adults worldwide. This common, deadly condition leads to stroke,  heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and many other health problems. 

The number of people living with hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher or  taking medication for hypertension) doubled between 1990 and 2019, from 650 million to 1.3  billion. Nearly half of people with hypertension globally are currently unaware of their  condition. More than three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.  

Older age and genetics can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, but modifiable risk  factors such as eating high-salt diet, not being physically active and drinking too much alcohol  can also increase the risk of hypertension.  

Lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and being more active can help  lower blood pressure. Some people may need medicines that can control hypertension effectively and prevent related complications. 

The prevention, early detection and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost effective interventions in health care and should be prioritized by countries as part of their national  health benefit package offered at a primary care level. The economic benefits of improved hypertension  treatment programmes outweigh the costs by about 18 to 1. 

“Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet  only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it.” Said Dr. Tedros Adhanom  Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Hypertension control programmes remain neglected,  under-prioritized and vastly underfunded. Strengthening hypertension control must be part of  every country’s journey towards universal health coverage, based on well-functioning,  equitable and resilient health systems, built on a foundation of primary health care.” 

The report is being launched during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly  which addresses progress for the Sustainable Development Goals including health goals on  pandemic preparedness and response, ending tuberculosis and attaining Universal Health  Coverage. Better prevention and control of hypertension will be essential to progress in all of  these. 

An increase in the number of patients effectively treated for hypertension to levels observed in  high-performing countries could prevent 76 million deaths, 120 million strokes, 79 million heart  attacks, and 17 million cases of heart failure between now and 2050. 

“Most heart attacks and strokes in the world today can be prevented with affordable, safe,  accessible medicines and other interventions, such as sodium reduction,” said Michael  R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries. “Treating  hypertension through primary health care will save lives, while also saving billions of dollars a  year.” 

Hypertension can easily be treated with safe, widely available, low-cost generic medications using programmes such as HEARTS. WHO’s HEARTS technical package for cardiovascular disease  management in primary health care and the Guideline for the pharmacological treatment of  hypertension in adults provide proven and practical steps to deliver effective hypertension care  in primary health care settings. 

Effective community- and country-wide blood pressure management can be achieved in  countries of all income levels. More than 40 low- and middle-income countries, including  Bangladesh, Cuba, India and Sri Lanka, have strengthened their hypertension care with the  HEARTS package, enrolling more than 17 million people into treatment programmes. Countries  such as Canada and South Korea delivered comprehensive national hypertension treatment  programmes, and both countries surpassed the 50% mark for blood pressure control in adults living with hypertension. Sustained, systematic national hypertension control programmes can  succeed—and a high level of blood pressure control translates into fewer strokes and heart  attacks, and longer, healthier lives. 

The report underscores the importance of implementing WHO-recommended effective  hypertension care to save lives, which include the following five components: 

  • Protocol: practical dose- and drug-specific treatment protocols with specific action steps  for managing uncontrolled blood pressure can streamline care and improve adherence. Medication and equipment supply: regular, uninterrupted access to affordable  medication is necessary for effective hypertension treatment; currently, prices for  essential anti-hypertensive medicines vary by more than ten-fold between countries. Team-based care: patient outcomes improve when a team collaborates to adjust and  intensify blood pressure medication regimens per doctor orders and protocols.
  • Patient-centred services: to reduce barriers to care by providing easy-to-take  medication regimens, free medications and close-to-home follow-up visits, and making  blood pressure monitoring readily available. 
  • Information systems: user-centred, simple information systems facilitate rapid  recording of essential patient-level data, reduce health care worker data entry burden,  and support rapid scale-up while maintaining or improving the quality of care. 


“Every hour, more than 1 000 people die from strokes and heart attacks. Most of these deaths  are caused by high blood pressure, and most could have been prevented,” said Dr Tom Frieden,  President & CEO, Resolve to Save Lives. “Good hypertension care is affordable, within reach, and  strengthens primary health care. The challenge now is to go from “within reach” to “reached.” This will require commitment of governments around the world.” 

Learn more about the global impact of high blood pressure and the HEARTS package to control  it here

Read the full report here.  


Notes for editors

WHO has partnered with Resolve to Save Lives, a not-for-profit organization, to support  countries around the world to implement the HEARTS technical package—a strategic, step-by step approach to support countries to strengthen hypertension care in primary health care  settings, which includes screening and treatment protocols. Since 2017, Bloomberg  Philanthropies has supported WHO and Resolve to Save Lives global efforts to save lives. 

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, is the WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries since 2016. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ investments in public health include major, life-saving initiatives to reduce tobacco and youth e-cigarette use through $1.58 billion in investments, support healthy food policy, reduce drowning, and improve road safety and maternal health, among others. In July 2022, Bloomberg Philanthropies invested an additional $115 million into its Cardiovascular Health initiative – bringing its total investment to $216 million since 2017 – to continue preventing deaths from heart disease. 

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About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is a not-for-profit organization partnering with countries, communities and organizations to prevent 100 million deaths from cardiovascular disease and make the world safer from epidemics. To find out more, visit: or Twitter @ResolveTSL.