Some medical experts have identified hypertension as the most common non-communicable disease in Nigeria and called for more awareness of the need for checkups, healthy diet and lifestyle to guard against it.
The experts spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos, as Nigeria joins other nations to celebrate the 2018 World Hypertension Day (WHD).
WHD is a day to promote awareness of hypertension and encourage people to prevent and control this silent killer, referred to many as the modern epidemic.
The celebration had the theme: “Know Your Numbers With a Goal of Increasing High Blood Pressure (BP) Awareness in all Populations Around the World’’.
Afolabi Akinkunmi, a cardiologist, said hypertension remained the most frequently diagnosed cardiovascular disorder in Nigeria.
Mr Akinkumi, who works at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, lamented that most people had yet to be aware of the disease.
“Hypertension is the most common non-communicable disease in Nigeria.
“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the prevalence of hypertension is highest in African countries at 46 per cent of adults, aged 25- years and above.
“Hypertension is an indication for the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, kidney disease, and other related disorders.
“With the passage of time, the blood vessels gradually lose their elasticity, and this may lead to rise in systolic pressure when the heart contracts,’’ he told NAN.
On the causes, Mr Akinkumi said hypertension could be the consequences of medical conditions.
“Hypertension precipitated by other disease conditions in the body is called secondary hypertension.
“Secondary hypertension includes adrenal gland tumor, blocked renal artery, obstructive sleep apnea, kidney diseases, endocrine diseases, obesity and nutritional causes,’’ he said.
According to him, environmental factors that contribute to hypertension include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and eating of high-fat diet, high-salt diet, caffeine and tobacco.
“Metabolic risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and raised blood lipids can also contribute to the development of hypertension and its complications.
“I advise hypertensive patients to maintain a suitable diet, nutritional supplements, exercise and proper stress management,’’ he said.
Mildred Akanu, a general physician, said that the symptoms of hypertension were rarely apparent.
“Hypertension is not often accompanied by any symptom and its identification is usually through screening or when seeking healthcare for an unrelated problem.
“Most hypertensive drugs do not cure hypertension but can only reduce blood pressure and control the condition,’’ she said.
Ayodeji Abdulrasheed, a dietician, at StaMed Nutritional and Health Services, urged the general public to adopt a healthy diet to reduce cardiovascular related diseases.
Mr Abdulrasheed said there were several types of cardiovascular related diseases but high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, was the number one risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
According to him, eating food rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium can help to lower blood pressure and prevent risks of heart failure.
“People living with high blood pressure should adopt diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium-rich food especially salt.
“For people with high blood pressure, they should watch out for salt in their meals; too much salt or sodium can cause the body to retain fluid, which increases the blood pressure.
“Such people should always ensure they eat food rich in nutrients which include protein, fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish.
“People should also limit the amount of alcohol intake as alcohol can raise blood pressure, even if the person does have hypertension,’’ he said.
“Everyone should monitor his alcohol intake and other fizzy drinks.
“We also advise people to abstain from smoking as it has a dangerous effect on the heart and also endangers the lives of people around them,’’ he said.
The doctor urged people with family history of heart related disease to go for comprehensive screening to ensure timely detection that would prevent its danger.
“It is important for everybody to always monitor his/her blood pressure, get active, eat healthy, maintain healthy weight and watch cholesterol level to keep the heart healthy.
“There is need to prevent high blood pressure in order to reduce mortality attributed to hypertension,’’ he said.
Ikeoluwapo Adesina, a 62-year-old retiree, said he had been living with high blood pressure for over 10 years.
“I started to have unusual persistent headaches, loss of vision and difficulty in sleeping at night with a feeling that my heart was pumping hard.
“I went to see my doctor who checked my blood pressure and said it was high.
“He had to check me for weeks, with the rates fluctuating; he diagnosed that I have hypertension and placed me on medication.
“I take my medication every day, drink a lot of water, eat fruits and vegetables and ensure that I exercise regularly. It has helped,’’ he said.
The retiree advised members of the public to consult doctors when feeling unusual or observing unusual symptoms,’’ Mr Adesina said.