There is no doubt that hypertension is catching up with almost everyone in Nigeria as the prevalence cuts across all categories of the population. In this piece, Joyce Remi- Babayeju takes a look at the disease which is commonly known as the silent killer among the citizenry.
Mrs. Patience Adewale, not real name, developed hypertension after the birth of her sixth and last baby girl. Before then, Mrs Adewale had enjoyed the best of good health in and out of pregnancy because at each antenatal check-up, nurses always commend her normal blood pressure. During antenatal clinics, health workers would always use her as a reference during health talks.
Unfortunately for this mother, she developed high blood pressure immediately after giving birth. She had suffered some stress and depression shortly before she delivered her last baby, which made her have hypertension immediately after birth.
Mrs. Adewale is one of the numerous women who suffer hypertension during pregnancy and also men who are also passing through the horrors of high blood pressure episodes.
Studies show that over 100 million Nigerians are hypertensive and the number keeps increasing because of factors like lifestyles and urbanity.
The Chief Medical Director, CMD, of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Professor Adewale Oke, made this assertion at a public function in Lagos.
Professor Oke said hypertension constitutes a powerful health risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and sudden deaths among many Nigerians.
This is adduced to the lackadaisical lifestyle of people, such as poor eating habits, lack of regular exercise and non- regular medical check-ups. The doctor said regular check-up is the best way to prevent, treat and manage hypertension before it becomes full- blown.
According to him, hypertension is a silent killer because it has no warning signs to alert the sufferer and can only be detected through health check-ups.
Consequently, Nigerians are often advised to go for regular medical check-ups to prevent sudden cardiac deaths. Also, people are urged to adopt healthy lifestyles and eat balanced diets, exercise regularly and avoid smoking, alcohol intake and excess salt consumption.
Recently, an indigenous pharmaceutical company, Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Plc launched a project, FITGAH, Fight the Good Fight, against hypertension to offer Nigerians cheap drugs for hypertensive patients in the rural and urban areas to have access to the drugs.
The Managing Director of the company, Mr. Emmanuel Ekunno who presented the FITGAH project in Abuja, announced that the pharmaceutical company was offering patients in the country a 50 percentage reduction in the price of hypertension drugs.
According to Ekunno, Nigerians need to have access to cheap drugs because results of screenings for hypertension conducted in rural and urban communities, reveals that almost 90 percent of hypertension cases are on people living in urban cities in the country.
He said the screening have revealed that about 4.5 million people within the age of 15 are hypertensive and 40 percent of the adult populace have hypertension.
He explained that FITGAH is a community based programme which involves screening, isolation and medicine administration at lower cost of up to 50% for all Nigerians.
The Neimeth Chairman disclosed that after findings, there was disparity in the results of people with hypertension, adding “the disparity is obvious and was expected because of the environmental factor, people in rural communities are not exposed to noise and other environmental pollutions, from industries, generators, and numerous vehicles exhuming hazardous gas to the air. Feeding habit is another challenge, we discovered that people living in rural communities eat more vegetables and fresh foods, the urban residents would naturally prefer fried foods and carbohydrates without regular exercise to born the fats which are also toxic to the body, those in rural communities also sleep early, but in urban cities life begins at night.”
According to the chairman, less worry is also one reason why people in the rural community will not have hypertension compared to people in urban community. He said regular check up by every adult in Nigerian was essential.
“What we do is measure a person’s blood pressure, if it is above the acceptable normal, and it is done three times and the result is consistently above normal, it is hypertension. It is not headache or dizziness and if people keep waiting for symptoms before they can go for check up, then we have more challenges ahead” he said.
On the rise of non-communicable diseases in Nigeria, he said the issues are more of behavioural “people ought to be mindful of what they eat and their environment, this is the reason why people in urban areas have more cardiovascular diseases risk factors.”
Almost 20 percent of Nigerians are aware that they are hypertensive and the disease is twice when compared with other East African countries. The disease puts patients at the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
According to research, in 2010, there were more than 20 million cases of hypertension in Nigeria affecting one in-three men and one-in-four women. This is set to rise to 39 million cases by 2030.
Also, according to a World Health Organisation report In 2002, there is emerging evidence to show that the pattern of diseases in sub-Saharan Africa is changing, with Non-Communicable Diseases ,NCD, responsible for about 22% of the total deaths in the region in 2000, cardiovascular disease alone accounting for 9.2% of the total mortality . By 2025 about 75% of the world hypertensive population will be in developing countries. In Nigeria for example, it is the number one risk factor for stroke, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and kidney failure. With an increasing adult population as well as rising prevalence of hypertension, Nigeria will experience economic and health challenges due to the disease if the tide is not arrested. As far back as the early 60s, a lot of interest has been shown by workers on the blood pressure of Nigerians. The essence of this work is to review studies on hypertension as well as hypertension research in the country.
A lecturer at the University of Nigeria, UN, Dr. Obinna Ekwunife, at a function said, “The high prevalence of hypertension is explained in part by lifestyle changes, many are related to changing environmental and social factors.’’
According to him, some factors such as increased salt and fat intake from the consumption of processed foods, increased tobacco use and sedentary lifestyles are likely causes of hypertension in the country.
“Quite a number of Nigerians are driving to work and participating in jobs with minimal physical activity.’’
Nowhere are these problems felt more acutely than in the country’s burgeoning urban areas. Lagos is a rapidly expanding city that is home to an estimated 10 million people and, according to a recent United Nations Habitat report, is projected to overtake Cairo to become the largest city in Africa with 12.4 million inhabitants in 2015.
Doctors also say, “Urbanisation brings risks other than sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diet. City life has implications for levels of stress and loss of family cohesion as well. Hypertension cuts across gender and socioeconomic status, as screening and research has shown.