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Worldwide prevalence of hypertension: a systematic review

Kearney, Patricia Ma; Whelton, Megana; Reynolds, Kristia; Whelton, Paul Ka,b; He, Jianga,b


Purpose To examine the prevalence and the level of awareness, treatment and control of hypertension in different world regions.

Study selection A literature search of the MEDLINE database, using the Medical Subject Headings prevalence, hypertension, blood pressure and cross-sectional studies, was conducted. Published studies, which reported the prevalence of hypertension and were conducted in representative population samples, were included in the review. The search was restricted to studies published from January 1980 through July 2003.

Data extraction All data were extracted independently by two investigators using a standardized protocol and data collection form.

Results The reported prevalence of hypertension varied around the world, with the lowest prevalence in rural India (3.4% in men and 6.8% in women) and the highest prevalence in Poland (68.9% in men and 72.5% in women). Awareness of hypertension was reported for 46% of the studies and varied from 25.2% in Korea to 75% in Barbados; treatment varied from 10.7% in Mexico to 66% in Barbados and control (blood pressure < 140/90 mmHg while on antihypertensive medication) varied from 5.4% in Korea to 58% in Barbados.

Conclusion Hypertension is an important public health challenge in both economically developing and developed countries. Significant numbers of individuals with hypertension are unaware of their condition and, among those with diagnosed hypertension, treatment is frequently inadequate. Measures are required at a population level to prevent the development of hypertension and to improve awareness, treatment and control of hypertension in the community.

aTulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and bTulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

Sponsorship: This work was supported in part by grant R01HL68057 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

Correspondence and requests for reprints to Patricia M. Kearney, MBBChBAO, MPH,Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1430 Tulane Avenue SL18, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA. Tel: +1 504 588 5165; fax: +1 504 988 1568; e-mail:

Received 24 March 2003 Revised 23 May 2003 Accepted 11 September 2003

See original paper on page 21

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.