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October 8, 2009

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Revealed: China's deadly pressure

HIGH blood pressure is closely associated with more than 1 million premature deaths in China each year, a study has found, and researchers have urged the government to beef up prevention and control measures.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is considered a preventable disease because many of its risk factors -- such as being overweight, a lack of exercise, a high salt intake, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption -- can be controlled.

"Primary prevention, including reducing the enormous average daily salt intake and lifestyle modification, will be a vital tool in such efforts," wrote the team, led by Professor Jiang He of Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in the United States city of New Orleans.

The Chinese study, published in The Lancet, tracked 158,666 participants aged 40 and over in 17 provinces from 1991 to 2000.

It found that most of those who died of cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and heart attack, had a history of hypertension.

There were 6,670 cardiovascular deaths among research subjects during the 10-year period and of these, 60 percent were linked to hypertension.

"Our results show that raised blood pressure is the leading preventable risk factor for premature deaths in China," the researchers wrote.

From these results, they estimated that 2.33 million cardiovascular deaths in 2005 in China were attributable to increased blood pressure.

Of these, 2.11 million had hypertension while 220,000 had pre-hypertension, elevated blood pressure but below levels considered hypertensive.

Another 1.27 million premature cardiovascular deaths were attributable to raised blood pressure -- 1.15 million in people with hypertension and 120,000 with pre-hypertension.

They defined as premature death women who succumbed before 75 and men before 72.

While the prevalence of hypertension is high and increasing in China, awareness, treatment, and control are low, according to the researchers.

Globally, an estimated 972 million adults, or 26.4 percent of the adult population, had hypertension in 2000, according to an earlier study.

Experts believe that figure is set to increase 60 percent to 1.56 billion by 2025.


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