Researchers estimate that there were more than 20 million cases of hypertension in Nigeria in 2010, affecting one in three men and one in four women. This is set to rise to 30 million cases by 2030, given prevailing conditions.
A separate report based on data in South Africa indicates that high blood pressure is treated effectively in only less than 10 percent of cases.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh who carried out the study published in the Journal of Hypertension say that understanding of hypertension in Nigeria and other African countries has been affected by lack of data on patients.
Dr Davies Adeloye, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences, said the team conducted a systematic search of high quality studies on hypertension across Nigeria and provided estimates of the prevalence and number of cases of hypertension in the country, adding that the team members hoped this would prompt appropriate policy response in the health sector.
Hypertension, like many modern-day ailments, may have long-term abode in Nigeria if increased public awareness, lifestyle changes, screening and early detection vital to tackling the increasing threat of the disease, as the researchers point out, are not taken with all the urgency the situation demands.
“High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – is twice as high in Nigeria compared with other East African countries, and less than 20 per cent of Nigerians are aware that they have the condition. Hypertension puts people at risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke,” the report said.
Hypertension which used to be rare, and suffered mostly by the elderly, is now common that young people also suffer from it. It is hard to see a family without at least one case of hypertension, the report notes.
Unattended to or untreated, a victim could have a stroke, even in those that are not aware they have high blood pressure as, according to experts, it is “largely a symptomless condition.”
National health authorities and relevant agencies should regard this report as a wakeup call to design policy response to this growing problem. This should include programmes of awareness plan on the prevention and management of the disease.
Advocacy should be carried out on the importance of regular but siple physical activity, such as climbing stairs instead of taking the lift, maintaining healthy weight and eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, among others.
People that ‘eat out’ may not have a say on what goes inside the food they eat such as the type of oil and salt and spices and garnishing that may part of the culinary ensemble. Restaurants and other public eateries should be part of the campaign to promote healthy dieting to curb high blood pressure and reduce the incidents of hypertension in the country.
In light of the poorly-funded but overstretched health facilities, the awareness campaigns should help in reducing the burden on them. However, the government should set up health centres for the management of stroke cases, irrespective of social status of the patients.
In the final analysis, it is the action of individuals that is crucial. Members of the public should be health conscious and understand the risk of hypertension in indulging in certain lifestyles and take appropriate measures.