Objective: Hypertension is believed to be an increasingly common driver of the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in sub-Saharan Africa, but prospective data are scarce. The objective of this prospective study was to determine the contribution of hypertension to deaths, admissions, and hospital days at a Tanzanian zonal hospital.
Methods: Between 2009 and 2011, diagnoses were recorded for all medical admissions together with age, sex, length of hospitalization and in-hospital mortality.
Results: Among 11 045 consecutive admissions, NCDs accounted for nearly half of all deaths, admissions, and hospital days. Among NCDs, hypertension-related diseases were the most common and accounted for 314 (33.9%) of the total NCD deaths, 1611 (29.9%) of the NCD admissions, and 12 837 (27.8%) NCD hospital days. Stroke (167 deaths) was the leading cause of hypertension-related death. Hypertension was the leading cause of death in patients over the age of 50 years and 57% of hypertension-related deaths occurred in patients less than 65 years old.
Conclusion: NCDs account for half of all deaths, admissions and hospital days at our Tanzanian hospital and hypertension-related diseases were the most common NCD. Hypertension accounted for 34% of NCD deaths and 15% of all deaths. Hypertension was the second most common cause of death overall and the leading cause of death in patients more than 50 years old. More than half of hypertension-related deaths occurred before retirement age. These findings have important implications for public health and medical education in sub-Saharan Africa, wherein hypertension and related diseases have not traditionally been given a high priority.