Heart Disease in PakistanHeart diseases are a very common problem in Pakistan. The World Health Organization (WHO) did a study across 53 cities in Punjab (Pakistan’s second-largest province) and found that 17.5% had cardiovascular disease. There are a variety of more minor problems in Pakistan that lead to increased heart attacks, and while they may seem minor, they end up having a significant impact on the risk of heart disease in Pakistan.


Hypertension is the leading cause of heart disease in Pakistan. Hypertension is a term to describe high blood pressure and occurs when the pressure in your blood vessels is too high. Hypertension can be deadly, as symptoms are not immediately felt, and the only way to find out whether you have hypertension is to check your blood pressure. Hypertension is very common in Pakistan and the last National Health Survey of Pakistan (NHSP) found that 18.9% of the population was at risk of hypertension.


Smoking is already unhealthy, but nicotine has the side effects of releasing hormones that increase blood pressure. Tobacco has been a prevalent issue in Pakistan for years. There are 18 million tobacco users in Pakistan, making it the 11th largest consumer in the world. There has been a lack of awareness of how dangerous the practice can be. But with how common and cheap the substance is, it remains hard to stop the widespread use of it.


Sometimes, hypertension can occur from an activity that does not seem initially harmful. Obesity is a widespread cause of hypertension, and Pakistan’s obesity rate is alarming. Pakistan ranks 10th in obesity, with nearly one-fourth of the population being classified as such. Pakistan is a developing country, and they have not always been ahead of other countries, so when Western fast-food franchises came to Pakistan, it was a huge deal. Some of the poorest families now had the chance to buy cheap food that seemed out of their league. Since the introduction of fast food, it has popped up everywhere, becoming the second-largest industry in Pakistan. As convenient as fast food is, it is extremely unhealthy, and just eating fast food can cause high obesity. And with high obesity comes a high risk of heart failure. 


The final major problem causing hypertension is the poor mental health of Pakistani citizens. Pakistan is not an easy place to live in, with problems plaguing the entire country. There are always factors hindering the lives of multiple people. Whether it be social, educational, or economic burdens, depression continues to be a problem. One factor that prevents these concerns from being addressed is Pakistan’s lack of mental health professionals. Pakistan’s health care is already underdeveloped, so hoping to find professional physiocrats is a rarity. With no one to consult, many citizens succumb to depression and increase the risk of hypertension in the process. A study from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that 66% of Pakistanis at risk of heart disease suffered from depression.

Actions Taken

Pakistan has realized the risk of heart diseases, but has always had trouble surveying heart diseases. However, they have taken action to handle the root of heart diseases. Pakistan has started by taking a stance on smoking, which they have increased public awareness of. Various advertisements and educational institutes have discussed the risks of smoking and why it should not be done. Additionally, the sales of cigarettes have been affected by multiple bans and price increases across the country. Obesity has been one of the primary targets for Pakistan, with various programs dedicated to stopping it. The Pakistan National Heart Association taught 200 journalists about the issue of obesity, which led to 1,000 articles spreading awareness on the issue. They also advocated for increasing the sweetened and sugar tax, making it harder to obtain unhealthy options for normal citizens. Finally, in 2019, the government in Pakistan announced that they would be promoting mental health care across schools. Over the years, they have taught teachers all about this issue and how they can help children through it. This program has continued for multiple years, expanding over time. These programs help to reduce these issues, and in turn, lower the risk of heart disease in Pakistan.


It is unfortunate how high the risk of heart disease in Pakistan is, especially because of how the issues bolstering it happen among everyday citizens. There is not enough awareness of the commonality of these issues, and there is not enough being done to save thousands of lives. Pakistan may still be developing, but the general public can make a difference by spreading awareness on this issue. 

– Uzair Khan
Photo: Flickr

Hypertension in South Asia
The Duke Global Health Institute will begin a study this year to find cost-effective ways to fight hypertension in South Asia.

The study will enroll 2,500 people from 30 rural communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where heart attacks and strokes caused by hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, are major causes of death.

“High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for premature deaths globally,” the study’s lead researcher, Tazeen Jafar said. “The findings from [our study] are likely to provide a roadmap for effective blood-pressure lowering strategies that are sustainable…and have the potential for saving millions of lives and reducing human suffering in South Asia and possibly beyond.”

According to the World Health Organization, 82 percent of premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases like hypertension occur in developing countries. That’s 28 million deaths per year, and health officials say these deaths are entirely preventable.

Jafar’s study will focus on four strategies. The first is to educate patients about the beneficial effects of diet and exercise on hypertension. In addition to regular weekly exercise, diets high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables while low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and alcohol are considered to be the easiest ways to measurably reduce blood pressure.

His team will also attempt to improve referrals to specialists, train doctors to manage high blood pressure with cost-efficient medication and develop special services at clinics to serve patients with hypertension.

They will then compare their results to traditional health care systems to find out if they can effectively fight hypertension in South Asia within the economic means of patients in developing countries.

Reducing hypertension and other non-communicable diseases will be a priority for policymakers over the coming years, as they work towards achieving the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda.

An economic impact study from the U.S. Institute of Medicine suggested related diseases in Brazil have caused up to $72 billion in productivity loss — a problem that persists because these diseases are passed down between generations. For countries in South Asia facing similar consequences, fighting hypertension-related deaths is more than a matter of public health, it is an economic imperative.

Ron Minard

Sources: Duke University, Mayo Clinic, WE Forum, WHO
Photo: Torange