The world marked World Hypertension Day May 17. The day is dedicated to a global health burden-hypertension, also commonly known as high blood pressure. The 2019 World Hypertension Day theme was “Know your numbers” which is aimed at increasing awareness regarding the importance of knowing what your blood pressure measurements are.
The prevalence of cardiovascular disease in our part of the world is said to have reached epidemic proportions. In most African countries, cardiovascular diseases are the second most common cause of death after infectious diseases. It is projected that between 2019 and 2020, the burden of cardiovascular diseases in Africa will double with a large proportion of victims being middle aged. This would consequently impact negatively on our development drive and poverty alleviation efforts as a nation.
The situation is made more worrisome because while hypertension was previouslyassociated with older people, especially those above 60 years, it has recently become common among the under-40s. Increasingly now, we are seeing lots of young people, men and women alike suffering from hypertension. Is it that we are now living more sedentary life? We spend hours behind our desks typing away on our computer keyboards, our market women are obese and would sit at one place from morning till evening without getting up to stretch their legs. We do no exercise. Our diets have also significantly changed. We have given up on our healthy traditional diets and now indulging in cholesterol-laden fast foods, diets that are foreign to our culture.
In spite of this gloomy picture hope resides in the fact that 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable. If you do not have hypertension then it may be worth your while to flee from this complex disease. Healthy diet (adopt a healthy eating habit including eating fruits and vegetables, limiting salt intake), regular physical activity, and not using tobacco products are the key to prevention.
If your work is a white collar job, take some time of to walk around; if you sell at a market, stretch your limbs by walking around too. You’re not bigger than a whale so get your body weight index and blood pressure in check. What remains to be true however is that obesity is another risk factor as it creates additional burden on the heart. An increase in body size or mass leads to a greater predisposition to the disease.
There is therefore an emergent need for us as a nation to start encouraging therapeutic lifestyle changes to prevent the development of this cardiovascular disease; awarenesscampaigns need to go beyond the annual commemoration of World Hypertension Day. Hypertension is not called ‘the silent killer’ for nothing. It sets in and gradually damages aperson’s organs without his or her realising it until it is too late. So, Prevention is always better than cure.
As a nation seeking to further develop our middle income status and alleviate poverty amongst our people, we cannot afford to have our most productive age group dying from preventable disease. The time to arrest this epidemic is now.
Yusuf Hassan Wada, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto