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Most high blood pressure patients in Kenya unaware of the disease

11 May 2015, 21:42 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – Most High Blood Pressure patients in Kenya are caught unaware by the disease despite the 2014 survey which established that Africa has highest hypertension prevalence of 46 percent globally where nearly one in three African adults is a victim.

A recent survey conducted in Nairobi by AstraZeneca, a global non-governmental biopharmaceutical organization, reveals that only 20 percent of people are unaware of their hypertensive status and that only about 20 percent of them had sought medical treatment to control it.

“It is estimated that nearly half Kenyan adults have raised blood pressure, one of the highest prevalence rates across Africa,” states the AstraZeneca report.

The Vice President, AstraZeneca for the Healthy Heart Africa, Samer Al Hallaq said his organization in collaboration with the Health Ministry and other partners last year launched a program rolled out in 26 counties including Kiambu to help address the common killer non-communicable hypertension disease.

Hallaq who spoke ahead of this year’s international World Hypertension Day, said, “In the coming days there are going to be a lot of activities across the country such as creating public awareness, screening, counseling and treating high blood pressure patients before 17th May.”

Read Also: Diabetics should pay attention to heart risks

He revealed that since AstraZeneca launched the Healthy Heart Africa’s program in Kenya in October 2014, the organization in collaboration with the Health Ministry have developed a hypertension treatment protocol, provided needed screening machines and treatment facilities, trained over 1 000 healthcare workers and initiated mobilization of over 250 health facilities for provision of hypertension services.

Hallaq added they managed to screened over 10 000 patients during the first 15 days of the program’s implementation phase in addition to the launch of the ‘Blood Pressure Matters’ awareness and prevention campaign on hypertension.

The Healthy Heart Africa program according to Hallaq aims at reaching out to High Blood Pressure patients across Africa to ensure a significant number of them are on treatment come 2025 to reduce the disease by 25 per cent in supporting the World Health Organization’s ’25 by 25’ global monitoring framework for preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases.

“We are building the program’s early milestones to fully activate its network of 2 000 healthcare providers and community health workers to begin delivering hypertension education and awareness, screening and treatment services to patients in need,” said Hallaq.

He further said Healthy Heart Africa program targets reach about 10 million hypertensive patients across the continent by 2025 because hypertension has been often over-looked yet it puts patients especially among people aged 45 years and above at high risk of developing more serious blood vessel diseases leading to heart disease, kidney failure, chest pains and stroke among others.

Although High Blood pressure has been affecting older people aged 45 years and above, alarm has been raised of the silent killer threatening lives of babies and teenagers due to change of eating habits as a result feeding on foods that contributes to hypertension such as sugary products and smoking among others.

Dr. Fred Bukachi, a Cardiologist Consultant and School of Medicine Lecturer at University of Nairobi warned pregnant mothers to be careful of the food they eat to ensure babies are not exposed to foods that lead to hypertension.

“Change in lifestyle and eating habits among pregnant mothers exposes their babies to high risk of suffering from high blood pressure. Some young mothers even smoke and eat unhealthy foods,” said Bukachi.

He asked people to regulate their weight since the disease mostly affects the obese or overweight, desist from smoking, stop eating sugary foods that lead to diabetes, and regularly do physical exercises to get rid of harmful accumulating waste products that may lead to hypertension.

“High blood pressure is most common problem in the country leading to blood vessel and eye damage, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure because it has no symptoms for early detection. Most victims are completely unaware of the disease and much sensitization is needed,” said Bukachi.

Dorcus Kiptui, an officer from the Health Ministry’s department of Non-Communicable Disease (NCD), said the National Government has allocated more funds for the fight against silent preventable diseases such as hypertension in addition to initiating legislation that address the challenge.

However, she admitted that the government has no comprehensive statistical data on the situation of hypertension disease in the country because people have not come out for testing.

She called on people to come turn up for screening and counseling ahead of the World Hypertension Day whose theme is “Know Your Numbers.”  

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