Medics warn of increasing dangers of blood pressure

Millions of people from sub-Saharan Africa are losing their lives due to high blood pressure each year, according to a new research that was launched last week.
Rwandans have been advised  to go for high blood pressure checkups at least twice a year. The New Times/ File.
Rwandans have been advised to go for high blood pressure checkups at least twice a year. The New Times/ File.

Millions of people from sub-Saharan Africa are losing their lives due to high blood pressure each year, according to a new research that was launched last week.

High blood pressure is responsible for 1.6 million deaths worldwide annually with 80 per cent of those deaths occurring in low-and middle-income countries, leading to extremely high levels of Cardiovascular Disease, more commonly known as heart disease.

More people die from Cardiovascular Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa (12.5per cent) than from HIV/Aids (12.3 per cent) or malaria (7.3 per cent), according to the UN World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the report, high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for heart disease, which kills more people than any other disease in the region.

Dr Abel Kagame, a Cardiologist at the University Central Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says high blood pressure is a very common disease in Rwanda, especially among people above 35 years of age and at least 53 out of 1,000 patients who go for treatment at CHUK suffer from the disease.

Advanced stages

“Some patients who suffer from strokes, kidney failure, eyesight problems and internal brain bleeding also usually suffer from high blood pressure. Most of these come when the disease is in its advanced stages,” he said, adding that regular checkups of one’s blood pressure, exercising and healthy eating habits may be able to prevent high blood pressure.

“If one is already suffering from it, then they should adhere to medication as prescribed.”

Another doctor, Emmanuel Rusingiza, a Paediatric Cardiologist, said some of the risk factors to suffering from high blood pressure include obesity, stress, unbalanced diet and diabetes. He said that some causes are also unknown.

Dr Rusingiza advised Rwandans to go for high blood pressure checkups at least every six months.

Other ways to ensure that you are high blood pressure free include reducing salt intake, avoiding too much alcohol and tobacco intake, eating a balanced diet, doing regular exercises and avoiding stress.

The average blood pressure in more than half of the populations in low-income and middle-income countries is higher than in high- income countries.

The study says to date, little research has been done to prevent, test for or study the incidences or impacts of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and other lifestyle diseases in Africa.

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