Measuring hypertension progression with transition probabilities: Estimates from the WHO SAGE longitudinal study

Godfred O. Boateng, Stella T. Lartey, Philip Baiden, Lei Si, Richard Berko Biritwum, Paul Kowal, Costan G. Magnussen, Ziyad Ben Taleb, Andrew J. Palmer, Isaac Luginaah

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This paper assessed the transition probabilities between the stages of hypertension severity and the length of time an individual might spend at a particular disease state using the new American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association hypertension blood pressure guidelines. Data for this study were drawn from the Ghana WHO SAGE longitudinal study, with an analytical sample of 1884 across two waves. Using a multistate Markov model, we estimated a seven-year transition probability between normal/elevated blood pressure (systolic ≤ 129 mm Hg & diastolic <80 mm Hg), stage 1 (systolic 130-139 mm Hg & diastolic 80-89 mm Hg), and stage 2 (systolic ≥140mm Hg & diastolic≥90 mm Hg) hypertension and adjusted for the individual effects of anthropometric, lifestyle, and socio-demographic factors. At baseline, 22.5% had stage 1 hypertension and 52.2% had stage 2 hypertension. The estimated seven-year transition probability for the general population was 19.0% (95% CI: 16.4, 21.8) from normal/elevated blood pressure to stage 1 hypertension, 31.6% (95% CI: 27.6, 35.4%) from stage 1 hypertension to stage 2 hypertension, and 48.5% (45.6, 52.1%) for remaining at stage 2. Other factors such as being overweight, obese, female, aged 60+ years, urban residence, low education and high income were associated with an increased probability of remaining at stage 2 hypertension. However, consumption of recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day was associated with a delay in the onset of stage 1 hypertension and a recovery to normal/elevated blood pressure. This is the first study to show estimated transition probabilities between the stages of hypertension severity across the lifespan in sub-Saharan Africa. The results are important for understanding progression through hypertension severity and can be used in simulating cost-effective models to evaluate policies and the burden of future healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
Article number571110
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2021


  • ACC/AHA 2017 hypertension guidelines
  • elevated blood pressure
  • hypertension
  • multi-state model
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • transition probabilites

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