High blood pressure or hypertension kills nearly 1.5 million people every year in Southeast Asia, making it the single most important risk factor for non-communicable diseases like heart attack and stroke, the World Health Organization said.
With one in three adults in the Southeast Asia region suffering from high blood pressure, WHO raised alarm over the non-communicable disease, saying it's among the most important causes of premature deaths worldwide.
In the run-up to World Health Day 2013, which focuses on high blood pressure this year, WHO said over one billion people are living with the disease worldwide.
The disease's prevalence is on the rise, authorities noted.
World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 to mark WHO's founding in 1948.
The body said 36 percent of adults in the South-East Asia region have hypertension while 30 percent of people in India suffer from the disease.
WHO said between 2011 and 2015, cumulative productivity loss associated with non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries is projected at USD7.3 trillion.
“In India, high blood pressure increased from five percent in the 1960s to nearly 12 percent in the 1990s to more than 30 percent in 2008," a WHO statement said.
"High blood pressure is one of the most important causes of premature death worldwide, killing nearly 9.4 million people every year globally and the problem is growing," WHO continued, noting over one billion people are living with the disease
WHO said in 2008, over-all global prevalence of high blood pressure in adults aged 25 and above, including those on medication for the disease, was around 40 percent.
Among all WHO regions, the world body said prevalence of raised blood pressure was highest in the African region (46 percent) and lowest in the region of the Americas (35 percent).
In South-East Asia, 36 per cent of adults have hypertension.
WHO said most of the deaths can be prevented through healthy lifestyles, early detection and treatment.
The body noted hypertension is a silent killer because many people either do not realize they have it or are reluctant to start treatment on time, putting them at risk for complications. Hypertension can be treated through medication, WHO said.
"Everyone has the power to prevent high blood pressure by adapting a healthy lifestyle - eating a balanced diet, reducing salt, regular exercise, avoiding alcohol, quitting tobacco and checking their blood pressure regularly," noted a report quoting Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
Acknowledging the disease as a serious global issue, UN General Assembly adopted in September 2011 the Political Declaration on prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and committed governments to a series of actions.
Member-States agreed to nine global targets for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases which include reducing prevalence of hypertension by 25 percent by 2025.
WHO is now developing a 2013-2020 global plan of action for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and is assisting nations in developing national action plans and in setting national targets to track progress in preventing and controlling such maladies including hypertension.
The global body's South-East Asia Region covers member-States Bangladesh, Bhutan, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.