Medication ‘may be weapon’ in China’s looming battle against obesity-linked high blood pressure

Researchers say the country should prepare now for a predicted rise in rates of hypertension

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 August, 2018, 10:05pm

China should consider wider use of medication to counter an expected rise in high blood pressure rates stemming from obesity, said researchers involved in a landmark national study.

The researchers said the obesity rate in China was projected to more than double by 2025, compared with 2010 levels, putting more pressure on the country’s health system.

Scientists from China’s National Centre for Cardiovascular Diseases and Yale University in the United States analysed health data from 1.7 million Chinese people aged 35 to 80 and found a strong correlation between the degree of obesity and high blood pressure.

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They also projected the prevalence of obesity would more than triple in men – from 4.0 to 12.3 per cent – and more than double in women – from 5.2 to 10.8 per cent – by 2025, compared with 2010.

The results were published in the American medical journal JAMA Network Open on Friday.

“With the obesity rate set to increase, China’s public health system faces greater pressure to diagnose and treat patients with high blood pressure,” said Lu Jiapeng, a cardiologist at the national centre and a co-author of the study.

“One solution – besides weight loss – is to expand the use of hypertension drugs, which have proved to be effective in mitigating high blood pressure.”

The medications were rarely prescribed in China but widely and successfully used in the United States, the study said.

Lu said body mass – a measure of obesity – had less of an impact on blood pressure in patients who took hypertension drugs.

However, nearly two-thirds of people with high blood pressure were undiagnosed or untreated, according to a survey conducted by the centre in 2015.

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Lu said the researchers were working with hospitals across the country to improve identification of the disease.

“We are setting up a nationwide diagnosis network and targeting those with higher risk” of developing high blood pressure, Lu said.

Harlan Krumholz, a cardiology professor at Yale and one of the co-authors of the study, said now was the time to focus on risk factors.

“If trends in overweight and obesity continue in China, the implication is that hypertension, already a major risk factor, is likely to become even more important,” he said.

Hypertension is one of 14 basic health areas in which China is aiming to provide free universal treatment services. Other areas include vaccination, pregnancy and mental health.

Hypertension affects around 40 per cent of Chinese adults aged 35 or above, and nearly 80 per cent of the same age group in the US, according to the national centre and the American College of Cardiology.