Health experts have advised Nigerians to watch what they eat, reduce salt intake and constantly monitor their blood pressure (BP) in order to keep hypertension at bay.
The counsel was against the World Hypertension Day which is being celebrated across the world on Wednesday, May 17.
In a telephone conversation with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, Ogah Okechukwu, a consultant cardiologist at the University College Teaching Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, said it was necessary to emphasise the importance of the day to Nigerians.
He said this month has also been designated as the Global May Measurement Month (MMM) initiative to create awareness on the disease and get as many people as possible to check their BP and to educate them on the importance of knowing their health status so as not to be caught unaware by the disease.
“Nigeria is joining the World Hypertension League (WHL) and International Society of Hypertension (ISH) to celebrate World Hypertension Day (WHD) and to conduct a public screening exercises for high blood pressure to get about 25 million people screened”, he said.
“It has begun since the beginning of the month in most public healthcare facilities in the country. All you need to do is to walk in and ask for screening”.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure/disease, is one of the cardiovascular diseases that affects the heart.
It is usually referred to as a silent killer because it sometimes does not give any symptoms until it is late or in advanced stage, leading to stroke or heart failure or attack.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, hypertension is one of the main contributors to heart disease and stroke – which together make up the world’s number one cause of premature death and disability
Mr. Ogah said the World Hypertension Day was not designated to create fear or stress in people but to educate them on the importance of getting their blood pressure checked and educate them on their diet to prevent the risk of hypertension and reduce hypertension-related death.
“We are using this medium to encourage Nigerians to get tested because hypertension is gradually on the rise in the country. As at 2010, 28.8 million people were living with hypertension in Nigeria and it is expected to rise to 39.1 million by 2030.
“The prevalence rate of high blood pressure in the country is put at about 28 per cent in both male and female population, with 30.7 per cent prevalence in men and 25.2 per cent in female. The unfortunate aspect of the disease is that children too are affected,” he said.
The consultant explained that a study conducted on the disease in Nigeria showed that the North-west had the highest prevalence rate in Nigeria and that as at the 1990’s, the highest blood pressure recorded in the country was in Kano State.
In 2013, WHO called for intensified efforts to prevent and control hypertension worldwide as high blood pressure is estimated to affect more than one in three adults aged 25 and over, or about one billion people.
Researchers estimate that high blood pressure contributes to nearly 9.4 million deaths from cardiovascular disease each year. It also increases the risk of conditions such as kidney failure and blindness.
Statistics from the global health agency shows that the prevalence of hypertension is highest in Africa (46 per cent of adults) while the Americas have the lowest (35 per cent of adults).
Overall, high-income countries have a lower prevalence of hypertension (35 per cent of adults) than low -and -middle income groups (40 per cent of adults) due to successful multi-sectoral public policies and better access to health care.
Mr. Ogah said early detection of high blood pressure is necessary and crucial in lowering heart attack and stroke.
“We need to make people aware of the need to know their blood pressure, to take it seriously, and to control it”, he stressed.
The consultant attributed the rise in the ailment partly to the lifestyle of many Nigerians as studies have shown that high blood pressure is more prevalent in the urban area than in the rural area.
“Stress is a contributory factor to having high blood pressure. Many people are migrating, moving from the rural areas to the urban areas for greener pastures and in the process go through more stress in their day to day activities.
“Blood pressure is also age related and increases as people get older. The weight of an individual also has a lot to do with the blood pressure, so we advise people to be very active and do lots of exercise to reduce their weight.
“Too much weight increases the risk of hypertension, especially in adults and this is often due to what people eat. Too much fatty food and salt intake has adverse effect on the body”.
Mr. Ogah urged Nigerians to watch their dietary pattern and reduce their intake of salt. They can reduce the risk by eating a balanced diet, more of vegetables and fruits, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and engage in physical activities.
He emphasised that reducing salt intake might increase the risk of hypertension susceptibility in an individual as studies have shown that a black person’s tolerance for salt is not as high as that of the white and that this triggers a reaction in the system which can lead to hypertension.