Nigerians have been urged to reduce their salt and sugar intake as well as improve on sedimentary lifestyle to curb the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.
This advice was given on Tuesday in Abuja at the high-level meeting on the multisectoral action plan on non-communicable diseases in Nigeria.
The multi-sectoral action plan is for the prevention and control of NCDs in Nigeria. The document is to serve as a strategic guide for the national response to NCDs for the next six years in Nigeria.
The document establishes a framework for reducing morbidity and mortality of NCDs within the context of the broader Nigerian health system.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said the document became necessary because Nigeria needs to take urgent steps in tackling NCDs in the country before it becomes a national threat.
NCDs are diseases that are not transmissible directly from one person to another. These diseases include cardiovascular disorders, respiratory disorders, diabetes, cancers, chronic kidney diseases, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer and others.
Mr Adewole said NCDs can no longer be referred to as a rich man’s disease because even the poor are beginning to have the disease. This, he attributed to the change in lifestyle such as smoking of tobacco, inhaling second-hand smokes, an unhealthy dietary pattern such as high salt and sugar intake, high intake of saturated fats and physical inactivity (increasing sedimentary lifestyle or too much sitting).
“NCDs need conscious effort to do away with. The risk of someone dying of NCD is one in five. Sitting for too long is dangerous, please try to always walk around, he said.
Mr Adewole citing statistics from the World Health Organisation said though NCDs are regarded as the number one cause of death globally, this is not the case in Nigeria.
He said a WHO report in 2016 indicated that globally 41 million deaths out of the 57 million deaths, or 71 per cent were attributed to NCDs with 15 million of these deaths termed as premature deaths.
He explained that in Nigeria the major causes of death are still the communicable diseases (these are diseases that are transmittable from one person to another) followed by death in pregnancy and related causes.
Mr Adewole said communicable diseases caused the most deaths, with 63 per cent as compared to cardiovascular diseases which are 11 per cent, cancer of all kind, four per cent, chronic respiratory diseases two per cent and diabetes two per cent.
“… That is why for us we say we are carrying a double burden of disease in Nigeria. We are still fighting that war on communicable diseases and have not succeeded; now we have non-communicable joining it. We have to manage the problem and this can mainly be done by prevention. To do so we need a multisectoral approach, that involvement from the ministries of labour, education, agriculture and other sectors,” he said
The increasing burden of NCDs in Nigeria has been attributed to urbanisation, change in lifestyles and behaviours. The change in lifestyle and behaviours are responsible for the metabolic (but modifiable) risk factors that give rise to the major NCDs.
These modifiable risk factors include tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets such as excessive consumption of red meat, salt saturated fat, refined sugars in food and drinks.
Commending the government effort to tackle NCDs head-on in the country, WHO head of Non-Communicable Diseases, Rex Mpazanje, said this has become necessary because low and middle-income countries are disproportionally affected by NCDs. He said the low and middle-income countries in which Nigeria also falls contribute 78 per cent of all the NCD deaths and 85 per cent of premature deaths.
Premature deaths are under age 70 years and this translates to economic losses for the countries as the major workforce falls within the under 70 age group.
Mr Mpazanje who represented the WHO Officer In Charge of the Nigerian office, Peter Clement, said the high rising prevalence, morbidity and mortality of NCDs worldwide can be largely prevented and controlled through collective and multisectoral action by all member states and other relevant stakeholders at local national, regional and global levels.
He said four main NCDs responsible for over 80 per cent of the deaths are cardiovascular diseases (heart attack and stroke) cancer, Chronic Respiratory Diseases (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary diseases and Asthma) and Diabetes.
“These four main NCDs share four common main risk factors: tobacco use, use of alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet”, he said.
He added that with Nigeria implementing the National multisectoral action plan on the prevention of NCDs, the country is on the right part to achieving the global NCD targets to be attained in 2025 including a 25 per cent relative reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025.
“Control of NCDs was also included in the 2030 agenda with a specific target towards reaching the sustainable development goals,” he added.
Seven most common Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
6. Chronic Kidney disease
7. Cancer of all types
Seven common risk factors for NCDs
1. Tobacco use
2. Indiscriminate alcohol intake
3. Unhealthy dietary pattern ( eating much junk food, sugar, high salt intake, eating saturated fat, or fatty foods).
4. Lack of physical activities ( too much sitting, lack of exercises and sedimentary lifestyle)
5. Living in a toxic environment
6. Air pollution
7. Inhaling of second-hand smokes