Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a global health concern affecting millions of people worldwide. In Nigeria, the prevalence of this killer next door is alarmingly high, posing a significant threat to public health. But it is not only in Nigeria that this ailment scares even the foolhardy. The world knows this and sets a day aside to remind every citizen everywhere of the killer instinct that drives this disease that sneaks in like a thief it is.
Every May 17, the international community calls to mind the need to be aware of hypertension as a disease especially the importance of measuring blood pressure accurately, controlling it, and ultimately living longer even with it.
Instructively, hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it typically does not exhibit noticeable symptoms until it reaches advanced stages. This silent progression increases the risk of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other cardiovascular ailments.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hypertension is responsible for more than nine million deaths worldwide each year. In Nigeria, the prevalence of hypertension is alarmingly high. Reports indicate that about one in three adults in the country suffer from this condition.
The Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), claims that the prevalence of hypertension is about 38.1 per cent. Indeed, 38.1 per cent of the estimated population of 200 million Nigerians shows that 76.2 million citizens are hypertensive. Sadly, in our view, only about 26.7 million Nigerians are on treatment.
Also, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) puts the monthly care cost of hypertension at N15,964.76. In a country where 133 million citizens are poor, the treatment cost is way above the reach of over 50 per cent of Nigerians. Medical experts posit that the prevailing insecurity and poor socioeconomic conditions contribute to the rise of hypertension in Nigeria. A recent study in China also indicate that cell phones play a significant role in exacerbating the condition.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the consequences of uncontrolled hypertension are dire, with a significant burden on individuals, families, and the healthcare system. It is estimated that the condition accounts for about 24 per cent of all medical admissions and 45 per cent of cardiovascular-related deaths in Nigeria. Without gainsaying it, this is an emergency situation.
Indeed, the theme for this year’s World Hypertension Day, “measure your blood pressure accurately, control it, live longer,” underscores the importance of accurate blood pressure measurement as the first step in managing hypertension. The effectiveness of hypertension management strategies heavily relies on accurate measurements.
Lifestyle modifications play a significant role in managing hypertension. Individuals should adopt a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting the intake of salt, unhealthy fats, and sugary foods.
Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, can also help in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Additionally, avoiding tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are vital for controlling the disease.
For some individuals, lifestyle modifications alone may not be sufficient to control hypertension. In such cases, medication prescribed by healthcare professionals becomes necessary. It is crucial for individuals diagnosed with hypertension to follow their prescribed medication regimen diligently. Regular check-ups with healthcare providers are also essential to monitor blood pressure, adjust medications if necessary, and address any concerns or side effects.
Indeed, addressing hypertension cases requires a collective effort involving the government, healthcare providers, and individuals themselves. In our view, the government should prioritise preventive measures by carrying out public health campaigns, promoting healthy lifestyles, and ensuring access to affordable and accurate blood pressure monitoring devices. The government can also help by ameliorating conditions that are capable of becoming risk factors. For instance, unemployment, high cost of goods and services, insecurity and other societal uncertainties create situations that give rise to high blood pressure.
Healthcare providers should emphasize the importance of regular blood pressure checks, accurate measurement techniques, and proper medication adherence. Individuals must take responsibility for their health by adopting healthy lifestyles, adhering to prescribed treatments, and seeking timely medical care.
It is pertinent to stress that on this World Hypertension Day, everyone, young and old, should collectively strive to make blood pressure control a priority in Nigeria. It is crucial to empower individuals with knowledge about hypertension, its risks, and the importance of accurate blood pressure measurement. By taking proactive steps to measure blood pressure accurately, control it effectively, and make necessary lifestyle changes, all of us can significantly reduce the burden of hypertension and improve the overall health and well-being of the nation.