The International Society for Media and Public Health marks the World Hypertension Day with partners all over the world today. This event, which is commemorated every 17th day of May seeks to create awareness on the need to always check your blood pressure and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Number chart for blood pressure. Source: WHO
Hypertension is a condition where the blood applies too much force against the walls of the blood vessels. This condition is responsible for an estimated 45% of deaths due to heart disease and 51% of deaths due to stroke globally. The African region has the highest prevalence estimated at 46% of adults aged 25 and above (WHO’s Global status report on non-communicable diseases in 2010).
A new study published in a medical research journal shows that only 28% of people with high blood pressure in Nigeria knew about their status. “The prevalence of high blood pressure is increasing at a very high rate in Nigeria particularly among young people. More than half of the people over the age of 40 years have high blood pressure, with men disproportionately affected”, says Anthony Ajayi who took part in this study from the Department of Sociology, University of Fort Hare, South Africa.
The high prevalence of hypertension in West Africa is due to lack of regular exercise and unhealthy diet. Many Nigerians have also attributed the causes of high blood pressure to the changing socio-economic conditions and life style in the country.
“I know the main causes are over thinking and stress. Young people stress too much and think too much and barely have enough time or resources to take care of themselves. People hustle too much and care less about resting and this reflects poorly on them when they age” says Abugu Maryrose, a Youth Corper and Dental Technician at National Hospital Abuja.
While her sister, Patience adds that when a person is continually agitated or upset in his mind, it begins to tell his body. Blood and hormones get high, organs and systems begin to malfunction which is why Government should solve socio economic problems so people can worry less about basic needs.
Hypertension can also be hereditary and caused by certain drug or a condition of the mind says Veronica Ogbole. If your parents or grandparents have it, their children are likely to develop hypertension, if they get to certain age. It can also be induced by pregnancy and sometimes the woman continues to suffer from this even after giving birth, he adds.
Similarly, Ishioma recounts that in addition to hereditary factors, other diseases can trigger excessive thoughts and result to this condition. “My mum became hypertensive after she discovered she had a kidney disease. Too much thoughts and fear contributed to this condition and currently, she is on medication.”
Others understand that age and eating habits contribute to this condition. Hypertension is largely dependent what we consume and inactivity. Salt consumed in large quantities consistently can trigger it. “I believe older people are more at risk because people tend to become more sedentary as they get older but studies are showing now that children are being diagnosed as well because of lifestyle changes”- Yecenu explains.
“I am hypertensive and on medication too. My eating habit is poor… terrible! Fatty suya, ice cream, chocolates and all the cousins of cholesterol. Exercises are good but my doctor insists on moderate exercises like brisk walking. No jogging! It may lead to a slump” says Olaedo
Hypertension may also be a state of the mind. The more you think about it, the more you feel the symptom so it’s best to stay healthy and worry less. Just like Kutiyessi explained that even though her dad is hypertensive, he doesn’t allow that to keep him from his usual daily life. He takes drugs on daily basis and stay active walking some distance every morning and evening. “By the way, my dad is a young man of 77 and energetic”, Kutityessi adds with a chuckle.
While many people understand the conditions that lead to hypertension, many others are not so sure of the best way to manage it. Few suggestions on managing this silent killer include:
- Regular checking of blood pressure: If a blood pressure is higher than 130 over 80mm, there’s need to seek emergency help to avoid complications.
- Be conscious of the food you take: Reducing amount of salt intake, Moderate or no alcohol or tobacco use, Eat more fruits and vegetable.
- Managing weight: Exercise often or daily. Take short walks every now and then
In general, there’s a call to educate and orientate people also on what hypertension is and how to prevent this condition. Since most of the stress comes from workplace, setting up Wellness Programmes at the workplace can be an excellent entry point for blood pressure measurement. There is a need to talk more and encourage people to get active because an active body is a healthy body. Get to know your numbers today.
By Adanna Mgbojikwe & Modesta Nnedinso