New Delhi: Health ministers from 11 Southeast Asian countries Tuesday pledged to accord high priority to prevention and control of high blood pressure in the region by 2025.
The ministers adopted the "New Delhi Declaration on High Blood Pressure" at the 31st meeting of WHO Southeast Asian region here.
Hypertension or high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for mortality worldwide, causing nine million deaths each year.
In Southeast Asia, every third adult is affected by hypertension which leads to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
The health ministers also reviewed progress on decisions and recommendations from the previous meetings.
While non-communicable diseases account for 55 percent of the 14.5 million total deaths in the region, cardiovascular diseases account for 25 percent of all deaths (3.6 million).
The ministers voiced their concern that delays in diagnosis and limited access to treatment could have catastrophic consequences for the poor.
"High blood pressure is a warning signal that health is at risk. But by the time symptoms appear, cardiovascular disease is advanced and the risk of heart attack or a stroke is increased," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said.
"The public health challenge is to get more people routinely tested early to enable proper management of high blood pressure through lifestyle change or medication," she added.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said: "India is called the pharmacy of the world for producing high quality and affordable generic drugs which have substantially brought down the prices."
"We have developed indigenous vaccines and testing reagents for H1N1 and other influenzas, indigenous vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis and a magnifying device for cervical cancer screening in the field," he added.
Through the declaration, the ministers committed to collaborate with key stakeholders to empower people to make healthy choices, develop policies to promote physical activity and healthy diet and reduce exposure to tobacco and alcohol.
They also committed to implement national salt reduction strategies, and regulate the food industry, including food-labelling and reduction of salt in processed foods.
WHO`s southeast Asia region comprises 11 member countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People`s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.