Half of all Kenyans have elevated blood pressure: study

Approximately one in every two Kenyan adults has elevated blood pressure that is likely to develop into hypertension, the largest ever screening programme in Kenya shows.

The abnormal rise in blood pressure begins early by age 30, a population often overlooked by hypertension control programmes. 

Researchers say this is a worrying finding because prehypertension (the elevated blood pressure) is a sign of changes that could lead to heart disease and kidney problems.

The condition is more common among men than women, and the burden increases with increasing age. 

“The overall burden of prehypertension was 54.5 per cent and that of hypertension was 20.8 per cent,” says the Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) study, published BMC Public Health journal in March.

The programme was implemented in 17 counties between March 2015 and March 2016, comprising five million participants.

 The prevalence of prehypertension was 54.5 per cent and that of hypertension was 20.8 per cent. 

The prevalence of prehypertension was higher among men (59 per cent) compared to women (52 per cent).

Experts called on interventions that are centred on lifestyle modifications.

“They would include physical activity, healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, reduced saturated fats and reduced dietary salt intake. Currently, there is no evidence for pharmacological therapy for prehypertension except in very high-risk patients,” they said.

Prehypertension occurs when blood pressure values are above normal levels but are still below hypertension levels. 

The Healthy Heart Africa is run by pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.

Dr Rashid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Health said: “The Healthy Heart Africa programme has proven to be an effective primary healthcare intervention solution and our partnership has continued to serve Kenyans across the country, even as we push to achieve universal health coverage.”

In a statement, Ashling Mulvaney, Vice President, Sustainability & Access to Healthcare, Global Sustainability at AstraZeneca said the programme is this year marking its sixth anniversary.

“Our partnership with the Ministry of Health in Kenya, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and AMPATH Kenya, as well as other Ministries of Health and partners in Africa, has proven to be an effective model in building infrastructure, removing barriers and supporting collaboration within local healthcare systems to improve outcomes for patients,” he said.


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