Africa is is far behind most first world countries with most health services available. We already know that adolescent psychiatry is in desperate need in most African countries, but high blood pressure is an extremely worrying epidemic that threatens the lives of millions of people living in Africa. This life threatening condition is prevalent in the majority of African countries, from the Pyramids of Egypt to the luxury Zanzibar accommodation available in Tanzania. The definition of blood pressure is basically the measure of force of the blood that pushes against the blood vessel walls. High blood pressure or hypertension makes the heart pump faster and can contribute to conditions like stroke, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, heart disease and heart failure.
High blood pressure in general seems to be linked to more environmental and lifestyle factors than genetic differences. These include things like:
• Being overweight or obese increases the risk of hypertension and other conditions.
• Excess salt intake
• Unhealthy diet which includes too much fats and sugars. A diet high in saturated fats and sugar and eating too much fast food can lead to blood pressure problems.
• Excess alcohol
• Very little or no exercise regime
• Increased stress. Long term physical and emotional stress can cause health issues.
These are the conditions many of the poverty stricken African people are living under and facing. Whilst wealthy people from first world countries deliberate over where to holiday, which hotel to stay in or which of the holiday Zanzibar Packages they should invest in, the lives of these local African people are vastly different.
Most of these factors can be modified and a simple change in lifestyle can help greatly in reducing high blood pressure. A positive effect can be reached by changing your eating habits and to eat more of a balanced diet. Choosing healthy food and losing weight, start to exercise and lessen or quit smoking and drinking alcohol.
High blood pressure is fairly common in developing countries especially when it comes to the more urban areas. It seems that the awareness about the condition, treatment and the control of the condition is very low.
The various causes are:
• Urbanisation: The movement of people from their rural area into an urban or metropolitan area. This creates problems from increased stress to a different lifestyle that increases the risk of high blood pressure.
• Change in diets: An increase in consuming fast foods and unhealthy food options.
• Increased Stress will increase the risk of hypertension.
• Poor access to medical or health facilities: Low awareness and no access to proper health care increases many other health risk factors including high blood pressure.
• Illiteracy and a lack of awareness: Not being able to identify or seek medical assistance as prevention rather than a cure.
• Poverty and poor diet: Having no access to the basic necessities and needs that could help prevent many health and social conditions.
• High cost of treatments and drugs: Finding a way to help lower income individuals afford the drugs needed to control their blood pressure or to provide free care and medication to those in need.
High blood pressure is also known as the silent killer with no obvious symptoms that compel an individual to seek medical aid. High blood pressure is responsible for many deaths worldwide and many of these deaths are in the middle to low income countries. High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for heart disease, which kills more people than many other diseases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that high blood pressure affects about 46 % of the adult population in Africa.
The Health policies and budgets of each government should be reviewed and programmes should be implemented to help address the lifestyle changes and choices of the people. There should be more research into prevention and also how it impacts onto other lifestyle diseases in Africa. The challenge of awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure should be highlighted and more research should go into this problem to help bring about a solution.
The 17th May is Hypertension Awareness day and September is heart awareness month; this is a great opportunity to bring this problem out and to teach people how to treat and control the condition. These awareness days or months can provide much needed education on the subject as well as to make available services like, free screening tests that can be easily reached.