The new report that about 76.2 million Nigerians are suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension is alarming. The figure is approximately 38.1 per cent of Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people. Unfortunately, only 23 million people out of the number are reportedly on treatment. These facts were made public by medical experts as part of activities to mark this year’s World Hypertension Day (WHD), which is celebrated annually on May 17.
Globally, hypertension is the number one cause of preventable death. Over one billion people, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suffer from hypertension the world over. The WHO has projected that the figure is likely to rise to 1.5 billion by 2025. The disease is more common in blacks than other races. Hypertension is the number one heart disease in the country and affects about 30 per cent of the adult population.
In Nigeria, the awareness level about the disease is abysmally low, especially among the rural populace. While the ideal blood pressure, according to medical experts, is 120/80 mmHg, any blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg is regarded as hypertension.
A national survey put the awareness level about the disease at 30 per cent. Due to the low level of awareness about the disease, cardiologists have described it as a “silent killer.” The theme for this year’s WHD, which is “Measure Your Blood Pressure, Control It, Live Longer,” is quite apt.
It is a clarion call on people to take charge of their blood pressure and ensure that they take necessary measures that will enable them live much longer. The theme was chosen to create awareness on the rising cases of hypertension and poor control of high blood pressure.
We bemoan the rising cases of hypertension in the country despite the availability of hypertension drugs. It is also regrettable that only a few of those down with the condition are actually on treatment. We commend the medical experts for the timely alarm on the disease, which is reportedly on the prowl.
Therefore, we call on the nation’s health authorities to regard hypertension as a serious medical challenge, which requires urgent pharmaceutical, nutritional and non-pharmaceutical interventions. There is need to prioritise the treatment of hypertension in the country because of the number of Nigerians suffering from it. Considering the low awareness about the condition, we urge the government at the federal and sub-national levels to create more awareness on the disease among Nigerians, paying special attention to those in the rural areas. They should sensitise Nigerians about the disease, the causative factors, preventive measures and where to access treatment.
The awareness campaign should lay more emphasis on preventive measures as well as lifestyle modifications that will ameliorate the condition. Since too much salt intake, consumption of red meat, sedentary living, and obesity can predispose one to hypertension, we enjoin Nigerians to refrain from consumption of much salt, red meat and engage in more regular physical exercises such as walking, jogging and cycling.
Instead, they should consume more of poultry meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. Let them also form the habit of checking their blood pressure on a regular basis. In view of the rising cost of hypertension drugs, the federal and state governments must work together to drastically reduce the cost of treatment by slashing the prices of hypertension drugs and blood pressure testing machines.
Although Nigerians have been subjected to stressful living on account of spiraling insecurity, mass poverty and unemployment, we advise them to lessen their level of stress by engaging in recreational activities as well as going for regular health checks.
Let the government subsidise the cost of hypertension drugs and blood pressure testing machines. This is perhaps the best way it can make the treatment of hypertension accessible and affordable for Nigerians.