• Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Hypertension: The universal health crisis


Life for Adeola Adeleye had been chaotic for some years. Trying to strike a balance between work and family had been challenging so when she had her regular bloodshot eyes, she thought it was because she was stressed up as usual. She went for an eye test as she did yearly but this time she was surprised at her findings. Upon seeing Adeola’s eyes, the optician said that it was no infection, but haemorrhaging (burst blood vessels) within the eye caused by high blood pressure. Within the hour, her blood pressure was 200/120Hg.

“I remember always getting tired regularly but I thought it was because I worked too hard. My cholesterol level was also high. Another shocker for me because we often eaten loads of vegetables and fruits but I guess I had too much low-fat that accumulated to much fat. I am regular at the gym now and I make sure I take my medication and check my blood pressure,” Adeola revealed.

Festus Okafor is also hypertensive. His blood pressure had been on the rise after he lost his job but he did his best to maintain it. In November 2012, he started to have unusual headaches then he began to experience a loss of vision and he often struggled to sleep at night and he would always feel his heart ‘pounding in his head’. Due to the fact that high blood pressure doesn’t often come with symptoms, his doctor told him he had migraine and advised that he sleeps well but the symptoms continued for some weeks, he went to another doctor and he was told that his blood pressure was very high and that if he had stayed longer, it could have led to heart failure or even stroke.

“From then onwards, my BP was on a very upward trend! My BP reached 220/135Hg and my doctor advised a thorough check-up. Few days later, I was diagnosed of having “malignant” (or accelerated) hypertension. It is a very rare form of extremely high blood pressure that requires hospital treatment. I am better now but still on medication but I ensure I check my BP regularly,” said Festus.

Published on World Health Day 2013, ‘The Global Brief on Hypertension,’ explains how in the early 21st century, hypertension is a universal challenge. It further explains how it adds to the burden of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure and premature death and disability. This document reveals to all how hypertension is both preventable and treatable and how governments, health workers, civil society, the private sector, families and individuals can join forces to reduce hypertension and its impact.

The theme for World Health Day which took place recently was “High blood pressure”. According to the report released by WHO, “High blood pressure – also known as raised blood pressure or hypertension – increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can also cause blindness, irregularities of the heartbeat and heart failure. The risk of developing these complications is higher in the presence of other cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes”

“One in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure. The proportion increases with age, from 1 in 10 people in their 20s and 30s to 5 in 10 people in their 50s. Prevalence of high blood pressure is highest in some low-income countries in Africa, with over 40% of adults in many African countries thought to be affected.”

For Dayo Oshuneye, a medical practitioner, “BP is controllable but there are certain things you have to do away with and they include unhealthy eating, excessive alcohol and salt intake. You must exercise regularly or engage in regular physical activity, you must also maintain a healthy body weight and avoid secondary or primary tobacco use. You see some sixty year olds looking like they are in their forties and you see some forty year olds looking like they are in their sixties. The difference between both is that while one has chosen to eat and live healthy, the other may just be taking life for granted. Health is wealth and the heart is a very important organ that cannot be ignored, take care of it so that you can live long,” he admonished.

Recently, an alarm was raised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, admonishing everyone to eat meals such as noodles with caution because they have high salt content. Aside salt, they also cautioned against too much use of paracetamol which is said to contain sodium. This they believe will go a long way in reducing the prevalence of high blood pressure or hypertension.

According to the Olumide Akintayo, president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), “The risk of developing high blood pressure can be reduced by reducing salt intake, eating a balanced diet, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, taking regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding tobacco use. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, admonishes the consuming public on dietary patterns which is critical in hypertension. Some popular diets like some brands of noodles account for 61 percent of daily salt requirement in the smallest packs. Newly promoted brands of soluble paracetamol with about 450mg of sodium per tablet which transcends to 2.7g daily when six tabs are taken a day. This will be inimical to the health of hypertensives and so calls for caution.”

Hypertension (HTN) or high blood pressure, sometimes called arterial hypertension, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. This requires the heart to work harder than normal to circulate blood through the blood vessels.

Blood pressure is summarised by two measurements, systolic and diastolic, which depend on whether the heart muscle is contracting (systole) or relaxed between beats (diastole). Normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100-140mmHg systolic (top reading) and 60-90mmHg diastolic (bottom reading). High blood pressure is said to be present if it is persistently at or above 140/90mmHg.

High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it often causes no symptoms for many years, even decades, until it finally damages certain critical organs.

Poorly controlled high blood pressure ultimately can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye, thickening of the heart muscle and heart attacks, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), kidney failure, and strokes.