Tack­ling the hy­per­ten­sion scourge

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

Nige­ria re­cently joined other coun­tries around the globe to mark this year’s World Heart Day, founded in 2000 by the World Heart Fed­er­a­tion to en­lighten peo­ple that heart dis­ease and stroke are the world’s lead­ing causes of death. They claim about 17.3 mil­lion lives ev­ery year. The theme of the 2015 World Heart Day, ‘Healthy Heart Choices for Ev­ery­one, Ev­ery,’ fo­cused on cre­at­ing hearthealthy en­vi­ron­ments by en­sur­ing that ev­ery­one has the chance of mak­ing healthy heart choices wher­ever they live, work and play.

It is dis­turb­ing that while Western coun­tries have ap­pre­cia­bly raised aware­ness and suc­ceeded in re­duc­ing the preva­lence of heart dis­ease among their pop­u­la­tions in the last 15 years, the same can­not be said of Nige­ria and subSa­ha­ran Africa as a whole where the in­ci­dence of el­e­vated blood pres­sure is ranked at about 46 per­cent. Re­cent re­ports show that about 41 per­cent of Nige­ri­ans have hy­per­ten­sion, up from 11 per­cent in 1997. To make it worse, many of them are not aware of their con­di­tion. Hy­per­ten­sion is not called ‘the silent killer’ for noth­ing. It sets in and grad­u­ally dam­ages a per­son’s or­gans with­out his or her re­al­is­ing it un­til it is too late.

While some pa­tients may be lucky to no­tice signs of dis­com­fort when high blood pres­sure sets in, oth­ers may not be so for­tu­nate. This ac­counts for the ris­ing cases of car­diac ar­rest and sud­den deaths in the coun­try. The sit­u­a­tion is made more wor­ri­some be­cause while hy­per­ten­sion was pre­vi­ously as­so­ci­ated with older peo­ple, es­pe­cially those above 60 years, it has re­cently be­come com­mon among the un­der-40s. It also used to be re­garded as the ‘rich man’s dis­ease’ but to­day the re­verse is the case as even poor folks are not spared by it.

Health ex­perts iden­tify high salt in­take as a ma­jor risk fac­tor. Obe­sity is another risk fac­tor as it cre­ates ad­di­tional bur­den on the heart. Stress is yet another crit­i­cal fac­tor as it causes the re­lease of hor­mones into the blood which trig­ger the heart to beat faster and con­strict­ing blood ves­sels to get more blood to the core of the body in­stead of ex­trem­i­ties.

The good news how­ever is that the World Heart Fed­er­a­tion says at least 80 per­cent of pre­ma­ture deaths around the globe from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease could be avoided if four lifestyle changes are made. These are do­ing away with to­bacco smok­ing, un­healthy diet, phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity and harm­ful use of al­co­hol. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion [WHO] has set a 2025 tar­get to re­duce car­dio­vas­cu­lar and other non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases by 25 per­cent. It stresses that ev­ery Nige­rian should be con­cerned about hy­per­ten­sion as more blacks suf­fer from the con­di­tion than whites, partly be­cause blacks han­dle salt a bit dif­fer­ently.

Nige­ri­ans need to be more proac­tive in re­duc­ing the scourge of heart dis­ease and stroke. From in­di­vid­u­als through to em­ploy­ers, health care pro­fes­sion­als, ad­vo­cacy groups and gov­ern­ments at all lev­els, all must act ur­gently and de­ci­sively in tak­ing steps to im­ple­ment strate­gies that can help re­duce the men­ace of hy­per­ten­sion. Aware­ness cam­paigns have to go be­yond the an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion of World Heart Day, the world’s big­gest in­ter­ven­tion against car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Public health fa­cil­i­ties should be im­proved and fund­ing for health care ini­tia­tives in­creased by the gov­ern­ment, donor agen­cies and de­vel­op­ment part­ners.

Gov­ern­ment in par­tic­u­lar has to be in the vanguard of the fight against hy­per­ten­sion in ful­fill­ment of its con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing ef­fec­tive health care for the cit­i­zenry. It should adopt proven meth­ods and chan­nels to reach out to dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the so­ci­ety. It is also im­per­a­tive that in­di­vid­u­als give their health greater pri­or­ity by go­ing for reg­u­lar med­i­cal checks, which would help those di­ag­nosed of hy­per­ten­sion to start man­ag­ing the dis­ease early. It will be help­ful if health care pro­fes­sion­als start ed­u­cat­ing all pa­tients they come in con­tact with dur­ing con­sul­ta­tions, on their blood pres­sure lev­els rather than wait­ing un­til a pa­tient’s blood pres­sure rises alarm­ingly be­fore of­fer­ing clin­i­cal coun­selling.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.