Hypertension: It’s not just a rich men’s problem…

A PHS 795 student does something excellent — corrects an incorrectly held impression by observing data. They write:

I came across this article a while ago on a recent study – saying that more than 1 billion people are living with high blood pressure. Since the world has 7 billion, about 14% of the entire population! While I have had a(n incorrect…) perception that high blood pressure was more of a rich men’s problem, this latest study suggests that it is a condition of poverty, showing a completely inverse relationship with national income. On top of the well-known factors (e.g. high levels of salt and potassium in diet, lead exposure and pollution, lack of diagnosis and treatments), children who are undernourished are more likely to have higher blood pressure as they grow older. The researchers suggest that the global community take it as a condition of poverty – especially focus on the intake of healthy calories and not just enough calories! I have a mixed feeling of ‘relief’ that we have discovered a problem to be resolved for global health improvement as well as ‘frustration’ that we have ANOTHER problem on the endless list…..


3 thoughts on “Hypertension: It’s not just a rich men’s problem…

  1. The idea that hypertension is a rich man’s disease is a common misconception. This new finding about global hypertension disproportionately affecting low and middle income countries is similar to the Whitehall study that found that cardiovascular disease mostly affected lower and middle income employees. This was surprising to the researchers at the time, who also thought that wealthier employees who ate a rich diet and had high stress jobs would be most at risk. However, the risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease seems to be most strong for poor people suddenly exposed to the unhealthy diet and lifestyle associated with affluence. People who grew up malnourished in relative or absolute poverty, whether in the UK for the Whitehall study or in Asia for this new global study, who are suddenly exposed to a diet high in fat and processed carbohydrates due to exposure to Western culture will have poor health outcomes. Drawing from the Whitehall study again, the poor outcomes may not be solely attributed to diet and lifestyle. There may be social determinants from stress and inequality coming in to play.


  2. I am not surprised to read that stress is not a rich person’s problem. In this class and another one there is this diagram of a person with arrows that say stress. We’ve talked a lot about how poverty affects someone physically. Living in poverty in a third world or developing country is the epitome of stress. Stress is also a big factor in hypertension, when you have to worry everyday if you’ll find food or when you have to get up at 2 each morning to work, stress and the effects of it takes a toll on your body. Also, like they mentioned in the article, the wrong food can increase the risk of hypertension. What I’ve noticed is that in developing nations there are staple foods. To decrees your risk of hypertension diversifying your diet helps and in some areas the food variety isn’t there or is expensive.


  3. With the development of fast food and processed foods, this makes sense. These foods are high in sodium, but are affordable and easily accessible. Eating primarily processed foods would not only lead to a diet lacking vital nutrients, but one that is sky high in sodium. Also, in low income countries this idea of staple foods is important. Potatoes are high in potassium and relatively cheap and easy to grow. If a diet primarily revolved around potatoes it could also be a risk factor for hypertension. So the idea of stress is a primary indication for hypertension is not necessarily always true. Like another student mentioned, food could also be a stressor. In food insecure areas, just trying to find a meal might be a stressor that could lead to hypertension. With people trying to prevent obesity and diabetes, it will have a positive effect on hypertension. When people have access to proper nutrition including fruits and vegetables, hypertension will most likely decrease in these high rate of areas.


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