By Adeyemi Adeleye
The Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF) on Monday called on governments and health sector stakeholders to regulate salt intake to maintain adequate hypertension (High Blood Pressure, HBP) control in the country.
Prof. Basden Onwubere, Chairman, NHF Hypertension Committee, made the call in his address at an event organised by the foundation to commemorate the World Hypertension Day 2021 in Lagos.
Onwubere, also called for increased awareness at the grassroots, saying that to control HBP, it was advisable to reduce salt consumption to less than five grammes daily and to choose a healthy diet with vegetables.
According to him, there is also the need to avoid smoking, limit alcohol consumption, maintain healthy weight, avoid sedentary lifestyles, and exercise daily to reduce the risk hypertension posed to the Nigerian population.
“Globally, more than one billion people are known to have Hypertension and the figure is estimated to increase to 1.5 billion by 2025.
“Of great concern is the fact that more than half of the individuals with Hypertension are unaware of it.
“In the low- and middle-income countries less than 40 % are unaware. In some of these countries, awareness levels are even less than 10%.
“A nation-wide survey in Nigeria published about two decades ago by Akinkugbe et al showed awareness level for Hypertension of 30 per cent and recent publications have not shown any significant improvement.
“This low level of awareness has given it the name: ‘The Silent Killer’,” he said.
Onwubere noted that hypertension remained the most common Non Communicable Disease (NCD) and known cardiovascular risk factor with a significant number of global deaths attributable to its complications.
The professor said that studies also showed very poor control levels of HBP worse in the Low- and Middle-Income countries such as Nigeria.
“Cardiovascular Disease (Heart Disease) is the commonest cause of death in the adult population in Nigeria and Hypertension is the number one Heart Disease affecting nothing less than 30 per cent of the adult population.
“Hypertension is the main risk for Stroke, Heart Attack (Coronary Heart Disease), Chronic Kidney Disease, Heart Failure, Abnormal Heart Rhythms and Dementia,” he said.
According to him, with this year’s WHD theme, “Measure Your Blood Pressure, Control It, Live Longer”, the WHL (World Hypertension League) has considered the current statistics as showing low awareness and poor control of HBP.
He said that the WHL recommended that all countries use this opportunity to create community awareness through Hypertension Screening Outreach programmes which are going on in many centres in Nigeria and globally today.
Onwubere said that relevant governmental agencies in the health sector were also advised to ensure adequate prevention of avoidable deaths and morbidity in the country.
He said that COVID-19 pandemic worsened the risks and burden of hypertensive patients.
The NHF committee chairman added that the world-wide lockdown of social and economic activities during this era significantly affected the control of HBP, particularly in countries such as Nigeria.
Also speaking, Dr Kingsley Akinroye, the Executive Director of NHF, said that governments should know that awareness of hypertension was still very poor, and access should be given to people for diagnosis and treatment in Primary Health Centres.
“Our intake of salt is not going down in this country. Salt is the number one poison that adds to hypertension.
“We would have been happy if our government had allowed us to have a regulation on salt intake. We need a law that will regulate the amount of salt in food available in supermarkets.
“There are countries that have that. We need to regulate salt intake. The more we take vegetable, the more healthy we are,” Akinroye added.
He said the NCDs had made advocacy for the inclusion of hypertension, diabetes, sickle cells and mental health diseases in the Federal Government’ Basic Healthcare Provision Funds necessary.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World Hypertension Day is celebrated on May 17 every year to raise awareness of Hypertension and broaden appropriate knowledge of people about Hypertension. (NAN)