Nigeria, Africa’s economic powerhouse, is one of many developing countries where health services have focused on treating infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, but in recent years, non-communicable conditions (NCDs) have become an increasing public health challenge.
One of the most prevalent non-communicable conditions worldwide, hypertension is responsible for an estimated 45% of deaths due to heart disease and 51% of deaths due to stroke globally.
Of the World Health Organsation (WHO)’s six regions, the African region has the highest prevalence of hypertension estimated at 46% of adults aged 25 and above, according to WHO’s Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2010.
Recent report based on a study by a group of researchers from Edinburgh University in the United Kingdom indicates that high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is much more prevalent in Nigeria than in other African countries with less than 20% of Nigerians not aware they have the condition which put people at risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.
In the light of this worrisome health index, experts say that moderating salt intake and regular blood pressure monitoring will help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and other related diseases.
AmamMbakwem, Associate Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Lagos said that Hypertension is a public health issue every Nigerian should be aware given increasing numberof people coming down the disease that do not show any sign/symptom.
According to her, “We tend to hold onto more salt because of our climate. We sweat a lot and so we require more salt to balance up. But once too much salt is in the system, it triggers high blood pressure. There is also some genetic differences between whites and blacks. The rate at which hypertension develops complications is worse in blacks even for the same level of blood pressure. Diet is also another reason for the high rate of hypertensive cases in black people.
“Hypertension is one subject every Nigerian should be aware of because the numbers are increasing in our nation. About fifteen to twenty years ago, the statistics was about 11% of Nigerian adults that had hypertension. These days, we are looking at figures over 30 %. In some areas, it’s as high as 47%.”
OlugbengaAbiodun, Country Manager (ASM) for Nigeria, Omron Healthcare Europe B.V, said that what is more worrisome is that most Nigerians are unaware of their blood pressure levels or numbers and that means we have a big problem on our hands.
“People need to take responsibility and know their numbers as this year’s World Hypertension day theme proposes. It is important that people start checking their blood pressure even at home. That way, at least you can begin to raise your level of consciousness, make lifestyle modification and then consult yourdoctor. Prevention is better than cure. That is why we are encouraging people to check their blood pressure often.
“As a company, we have the Omron blood pressure monitors which arethe only clinically validated products in Nigeria, and Omron is a global brand represented in Nigeria by New Heights Pharma. We work with clinics and pharmacists all over the country because the cost of preventing is far cheaper than the cost of managing hypertension,”Abiodun added.
Among strategic stepsNigeria can adapt to stem this growing tide, Olugbengacharged government and key stakeholdersto focus on policies that can help us prevent the development and support the management of this condition.
“I will like to see a population-wide salt reduction policy. How can we do that? The government can mandatemanufacturers to reasonably reduce the amount of salt in all processed and staple foods produced in the country. I will also like to see the Federal Government developa new evidence-based guidelines for the management of hypertension and its complications,” he concluded.