Hypertension is preventable, treatable – Ehanire

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, says hypertension is preventable, can easily be detected and treated.

Ehanire said this on Wednesday in Abuja at a news conference to commemorate 2023 World Hypertension Day.

The day which is marked on May 17 every year has “Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer” as its theme.

It focuses on combating low awareness, especially in the low to middle-income countries, and on promoting accurate blood pressure measurement methods.

Ehanire who was represented by the Director, Public Health, Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, said that controlling hypertension is paramount in reducing the burden of cardiovascular diseases in the country.

The minister said that hypertension was the leading cardiovascular disease and Non-Communicable Disease (NCDs) and is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality.

He also said that the low- and middle-income countries were responsible for nearly 80 per cent of the global cardiovascular disease burden.

“Globally, more than one billion people worldwide are living with hypertension and this represents more than 30 per cent of the adult population.

“Of this number, only 52 per cent are aware of their condition while about 35 per cent are on treatment and less than 14 per cent have their blood pressure controlled.

“It is worrisome that the burden of hypertension is disproportionately more in the low- and middle-income countries in recent decades due to the increase in prevalence of risk factors such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and harmful alcohol consumption.”

Ehanire said that the significant burden is further heightened by the high proportion of persons that are unaware of their condition, putting them at risk of avoidable medical complications and death.

For Nigeria, he said, several studies and surveys put the prevalence of hypertension in excess of 30 per cent.

Citing the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2019 NCDs Country Profiles, NCDs accounted for 29 per cent of all deaths in Nigeria with cardiovascular disease, predominantly hypertension, responsible for 11 per cent of all the NCD deaths, and premature mortality due to NCDs at 22 per cent.

He, however, said that in response to the high burden of hypertension in Nigeria, government had over the years instituted several strategic interventions at the tertiary, secondary and primary health care levels.

This, he said, was with the target of screening at least 80 per cent of the eligible population and placing 80 per cent of people with hypertension on standard treatment and care and also ensuring that 80 per cent of those on treatment have their blood pressure sustainably controlled.

This is to avert complication and contribute to achieving at least 25 per cent relative reduction in unconditional probability of dying prematurely from cardiovascular diseases and other NCDs.

To enhance the management of the disease in Nigeria, the ministry, in collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), WHO Country Office, and Resolve To Save Lives (RTSL), inaugurated the National Hypertension Control Initiative (NHCI) in August 2019.

This involved strengthening PHCs to provide hypertension services such as awareness creation, education, screening, early detection, quality treatment, care and support, including referral in line with standard national tools and guidelines to reduce morbidity and mortality due to hypertension in the country.

“In November 2020, under the NHCI initiative, services commenced in selected PHC facilities in both Kano and Ogun States.

“Currently, a total of 104 PHCs in the two states have been activated and are providing hypertension control services.

“As at December 2022, over one million episodes of blood pressure (BP) checks had been conducted with over 43,000 hypertension new cases recorded.

“Over 21,409 patients were placed on treatment for high BP and over 1,000 patients referred. BP control rate which was less than 20 per cent at the start of the project has been improved to almost 30 per cent.”

He added that beyond the 104 PHCs in Kano and Ogun States, additional 360 PHCs across 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory have been included to provide hypertension prevention, treatment and care services under the Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) Programme that was launched in August 2022.

The programme which was supported by AstraZeneca through Population Services International (PSI) had Nasarawa, Kwara, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Akwa-libom, Delta, Rivers states and the FCT as participating states.

“Through the HHA Programme, a total of 744,773 BP screenings have been conducted with 162,060 (22 per cent) hypertension cases diagnosed as at April 18, 2023”, Ehanire said.

On prevention or management of the disease, Ehanire said that adoption of a healthy lifestyle by individuals was an integral strategy that should be practiced by all.

He advised engagement in physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes daily, making use of the stairs instead of the elevator, trekking instead of taking the bus for short distances.

Also, physical activity relieves stress, keeps them fit, controls body weight, and lowers heart disease and stroke risk.

“Avoid tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke, avoid drinking alcohol, or if you must drink, make sure it is in moderation and drink a lot of water.

“Eat a healthy diet containing a minimum of five servings of variety of fresh fruits and vegetables spread over each day.

“In addition, eat a variety of whole grains, lean meat, fish, peas, beans, and lentils, avoid processed foods, limit salt intake to less than five grams daily, reduce dietary cholesterol and avoid industrially produced trans-fats.”

Ehanire also advised regular blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checks. (NAN) 

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