Is the cardiovascular health of South Africans today comparable to African-Americans 45 years ago?

Breet Y, Lackland DT, Ovbiagele B, Owolabi O, Ogedegbe G, Kruger IM, Schutte AE.

J Hypertens 2019; 37: 1606–1614

1)      Summarize your work in one sentence.

As it is well-known that hypertension occurs frequently among black populations around the world, we aimed to objectively assess the current situation in South Africa by comparing the cardiovascular health status of African-Americans from 1960-1980 to black South Africans from recent years, as there is potential to implement best practices from the US.

2)      Summarize your findings in one sentence.

The cardiovascular profile, specifically blood pressure and the frequency of hypertension, of South African men and women from recent years were comparable to those noted in African-Americans in the 1970s-1980s.

3)      Which were the more important methods you used in this work? If it is not a traditional method you can briefly explain the concept of that methodology.

The data of men and women from three studies performed in the US (Evans County Heart Study; Charleston Heart Study; NHANES I and II) during the 1960s to 1980s and one prospective study in SA (PURE, North West Province) performed between 2005 and 2010 were compared in terms of blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking status. This provided us with an unique opportunity to investigate comparisons over time.

4)      What did you learn from this paper, what was your take-home message?

In this study, we found that South Africans had a lower rate of hypertension compared to African-Americans from earlier USA studies, however the frequency was comparable to the NHANES II conducted between 1976 and 1980. Non-communicable diseases remain on a set upward trajectory with estimates showing the highest frequency of hypertension to be evident in Africa. This burden is further exacerbated by extremely low levels of hypertension awareness and control and there is an urgent need for the identification of novel approaches to better manage and treat hypertension in Africa. In the US health system interventions since the 1960s resulted in improvements in hypertension awareness, management and control among African-Americans. Our current data suggests that implementing these best practices from the US can further aid in reducing the burden of hypertension in Africa.