Hypertension is a leading attributable risk factor for mortality in South Asia. However, a systematic review on prevalence and risk factors for hypertension in the region of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has not carried out before.
The study was conducted according to the Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology Guideline. A literature search was performed with a combination of medical subject headings terms, "hypertension" and "Epidemiology/EP". The search was supplemented by cross-references. Thirty-three publications that met the inclusion criteria were included in the synthesis and meta-analyses. Hypertension is defined when an individual had a systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥140mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥90mm Hg, was taking antihypertensive drugs, or had previously been diagnosed as hypertensive by health care professionals. Prehypertension is defined as SBP 120-139mm Hg and DBP 80-89mm Hg.
The overall prevalence of hypertension and prehypertension from the studies was found to be 27% and 29.6%, respectively. Hypertension varied between the studies, which ranged from 13.6% to 47.9% and was found to be higher in the studies conducted in urban areas than in rural areas. The prevalence of hypertension from the latest studies was: Bangladesh: 17.9%; Bhutan: 23.9%; India: 31.4%; Maldives: 31.5%; Nepal: 33.8%; Pakistan: 25%; and Sri Lanka: 20.9%. Eight out of 19 studies with information about prevalence of hypertension in both sexes showed that the prevalence was higher among women than men. Meta-analyses showed that sex (men: odds ratio [OR] 1.19; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.02, 1.37), obesity (OR 2.33; 95% CI: 1.87, 2.78), and central obesity (OR 2.16; 95% CI: 1.37, 2.95) were associated with hypertension.
Our study found a variable prevalence of hypertension across SAARC countries, with a number of countries with blood pressure above the global average. We also noted that studies are not consistent in their data collection about hypertension and related modifiable risk factors.