Malaria, Hypertension and Pregnancy: where communicable and non-communicable diseases may cross paths

WorldHypertensionDay_SmallTomorrow, May 17th, is World Hypertension Day.  Much attention of recent has been focused on the importance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension in terms of global burden, and concerns have been expressed that communicable or infectious diseases (CDs) may become neglected, although they still cause huge levels of morbidity and mortality. What people may not realize is that there are connections between the NCDs and the CDs.

World Hypertension DayBetter research is needed to document the relationships and influences of one on the other, but some preliminary work has been done with pregnant women who are susceptible to both hypertension and malaria.  What does that combination do?

What the existing literature implies so far is that malaria in pregnancy may in fact be associated with hypertension in some cases and that both conditions can lead to intra-uterine growth retardation and low birth weight.  Also boys who were born to mothers with malaria in pregnancy had excess hypertension in their first year of life and girls had higher SBP.

Hypertension malaria LBWThe role of malaria in pregnancy in low birth weight is well established. Furthermore Lackland and colleagues shared that, “there have been numerous ecologic and observational studies that identified significant inverse associations of birth weight with blood pressure levels at various ages in later life.” A graphic posted to the right shows potential malaria and hypertension interactions. These are areas that deserve more observation, documentation and research.

Overall we can see that there is not a real dichotomy between CDs and NCDs, and both interact in the health of individuals, families and communities.

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