Significant Improvement in Blood Pressure Levels Among Older Adults With Hypertension in Rural South Africa

Background:Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing an epidemiologic transition from infectious diseases to cardiovascular diseases. From 2014 to 2019, sociodemographic surveillance was performed in a large cohort in rural South Africa. Methods:Disease prevalence and incidence were calculated using inverse probability weights. Poisson regression was used to identify disease predictors. The percentage of individuals with controlled (<140/90 mm Hg) versus uncontrolled hypertension was compared between 2014 and 2019. Results:Compared with 2014 (n=5059), study participants in 2019 (n=4176) had similar rates of obesity (mean body mass index, 27.5±10.0 versus 27.0±6.5) but higher smoking (9.1% versus 11.5%) and diabetes (11.1% versus 13.9%). There was no significant increase in hypertension prevalence (58.4% versus 59.8%; age adjusted, 64.3% versus 63.3%), and there was a significant reduction in mean systolic blood pressure (138.0 versus 128.5 mm Hg; P<0.001). Among hypertensive individuals who reported medication use in 2014 and 2019 (n=796), the proportion with controlled hypertension on medication increased from 44.5% to 62.3%. Hypertension incidence was 6.2 per 100 person-years, and age was the only independent predictor. Among normotensive individuals in 2014 (n=2257), 15.2% developed hypertension by 2019, with the majority already controlled on medications by 2019. Conclusions:The hypertension prevalence and incidence are plateauing in this aging cohort. There was a statistically and clinically significant decline in mean blood pressure and a substantial increase in individuals with controlled hypertension on medication. The prevalence of cardiometabolic risk factors did not decrease over time, suggesting that the blood pressure decrease is likely due to increased medication access and adherence, promoted by local health systems.
Africa south of the Sahara ■ developing countries ■ health services accessibility ■ hypertension ■ medication adherence