Nigerian forum: Health - 40 per cent of Nigerians are hypertensive – Experts
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30 Aug 2014 12:29

Culled from punch of AUGUST 13, 2014 BY BUKOLA ADEBAYO

Stakeholders raise the alarm over rising cases of hypertension and stroke in Nigeria, BUKOLA ADEBAYO reports

Experts have raised the alarm that more Nigerians are living with hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases. They note particularly that the prevalence of hypertension has jumped from 11 per cent in 1997 to 40 per cent in 2013 in Nigeria.

The medics identified high salt content in Nigerian foods, increasing rate of obesity among children and adults and sedentary living as factors responsible for the increase in the population of Nigerians living with high blood pressure.

The physicians, who spoke at the seventh edition of the cardiovascular summit titled, “Managing High Risk Cardiovascular Patients Anchored on Evidenced- Based Guidelines”, also called on the government to implement a national salt reduction policy.

At the summit organised by Pfizer Nigeria and East African Region in Lagos, they also examined a World Cardiology study conducted in Oyo, Katsina, Kwara and Enugu states, which shows that high blood pressure is a condition Nigerians should worry about.

The study estimates that the prevalence of people living with hypertension is “about 27 per cent in Katsina, 36.6 per cent in Ilorin, 20.8 per cent in Ibadan rural, 46.6 per cent in Enugu rural.”

Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Oladipo Akinkugbe, said that unmanaged and undetected hypertension or high blood pressure was the major reason why more Nigerians were suffering and dying of stroke, heart disease and chronic kidney failure.

He attributed the increasing population of hypertensive patients to the high salt content in local foods in the country.

According to him, research has shown that salt increases the blood pressure in blacks, especially those living in Africa.

Akinkugbe said, “Salt (sodium) is essential for our bodies. Normally the kidneys control the level of salt. If there is much salt, the kidneys pass it into urine. But when our salt intake levels through foods are very high, the kidneys cannot keep up and the salt ends up in our bloodstream. Salt attracts water. When there is much salt, it draws more water into the blood. More water increases the volume of blood, which raises blood pressure.

“Research has proved that salt intake is a reason why many Africans have hypertension. Africans are more salt sensitive than their white counterparts are. This means that Africans are prone to the consequences of salt even when they eat the same food. The situation is worse today because the lifestyle and diet of the average Nigerian has changed. We eat more processed foods than ever, yet we are the ones suffering from the diseases they cause because of our genes. Why don’t we have a national salt-focused reduction therapy policy?”

For Associate Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr. Amam Nbakwem, Nigerians suffer from the effects of high blood pressure due to ignorance.

According to her, more than 60 per cent of Nigerians, who are hypertensive, do not know they have high blood pressure.

The cardiologist said, “Many with heart diseases do not know that they have high blood pressure till their hearts start failing.

“Nigerians wait for symptoms before they go for check up, which is deadly. For instance, if you have high blood pressure and you don’t know, by the time you are feeling dizzy or weak or breathless in the morning, some organs, such as the kidney and the liver, may have been damaged.”

Calling for more sensitisation, she noted that the campaign would make more Nigerians to take routine medical screening on high blood pressure more seriously.

She added, “We are not just worried that the number of hypertensive patients is going up. We are more worried that Nigerians do not know how to manage it. The statistics has been going up in the last 15 years, yet there is no special plan to check it. High blood pressure is fatal to the heart, kidney and brain when left unmanaged.”

But as Akinkugbe and Nbakwem hold these views, the Country Manager, Pfizer East African Region, Carl Engleman, looks beyond Nigeria and Africa in his assessment of the situation. According to him, a recent survey shows that heart and cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in the world.

In Engleman’s thinking, death rates are higher generally in developing countries, including Nigeria due to the late detection of cases and other risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking; diabetes, obesity and sedentary living.

But like Akinkugbe, Engleman urged the government to come up with a national policy on management of non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes and stroke.

Engleman argued that the policy would give a correct statistics of the population of Nigerians affected and ensure that the government policies on prevention, treatment and management has better impact on Nigerians.

Meanwhile, Akinkugbe said individuals diagnosed with high blood pressure needed to be religious in the use of their medication, as failure to do so, may lead to other complications like diabetes and stroke.

He added, “I have patients diagnosed with high blood pressure 30 years ago that are still alive. Their cases have been manageable because they have been faithful in taking their drugs and engaging in other routine exercises. Hypertension is not a death sentence; it only kills when you don’t know you have it.”

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30 Aug 2014 22:03
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14 Sep 2014 08:16
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