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Association of altitude and urbanization with hypertension and obesity: analysis of the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2016
Authors: Suresh Mehata, Nipun Shrestha, Saruna Ghimire, Emily Atkins, Deepak Kumar Karki, and Shiva Raj Mishra
Source: International Health, DOI: 10.1093/inthealth/ihaa034
Topic(s): Biomarkers
Rural-urban differentials
Country: Asia
Published: FEB 2021
Abstract: Background: Nepal's Himalayan range attracts mountaineers, climbers and tourists from all across the globe. Limited recent evidence suggests that exposure to hypoxia at a higher altitude may be a risk factor for hypertension and a protective factor for obesity. The existing urban-rural disparities in Nepal in health and economic resources may be anticipated in the burden of hypertension and obesity, two rapidly growing public health issues, but they remain largely unstudied. Therefore this study aims to assess the association of altitude and urbanization with hypertension and overweight/obesity in Nepal. Methods: Data on 10 473 participants from a nationally representative survey, the 2016 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), was used. The NDHS assessed/measured blood pressure, height, weight, urbanization and the altitude of participants' households by following standard procedures. Logistic and linear regression models were used to study the association of altitude (per 100 m increases) and urbanization with hypertension and obesity, or their continuous measurements (i.e. systolic and diastolic blood pressure [SBP and DBP, respectively] and body mass index [BMI]). Results: The prevalence of hypertension, overweight and obesity was 25.6%, 19.6% and 4.8%, respectively. After controlling for covariates, residents of metropolitan cities had a 30% higher prevalence of overweight/obesity (adjusted prevalence ratio 1.30 [95% confidence interval {CI} 1.11 to 1.52]) than their rural counterparts. For altitude, there was a marginally increased odds of hypertension and overweight/obesity with elevation. Consistently, DBP (ß = 0.18 [95% CI 0.09 to 0.27]) and BMI increased with altitude (ß = 0.11 [95% CI 0.08 to 0.13]). Conclusion: Urbanization was positively associated with BMI, while altitude showed a marginally positive association with hypertension and overweight/obesity. Given the role of obesity and hypertension in the aetiology of other chronic diseases and subsequently associated mortality and health care costs, residents in urban areas and at higher altitudes may benefit from weight control interventions and BP monitoring, respectively.