Hypertension in Africa: A Rising Deadly Epidemic

By Nelly Gachanja  

Hypertension is a global problem that has affected many people and families not only in Africa but across the globe. According to statistics, one billion people across the globe live with high blood pressure. If not well treated, hypertension causes cardiovascular related diseases such as heart attacks and various types of strokes as well as kidney failure. Unfortunately, Africa has not been spared from this scourge as figures show a worrying trend of increasing hypertension and related illnesses around the continent. As opposed to the past when hypertension was associated with older people, younger generations are getting affected.

In the past, Africa never paid so much attention to hypertension as it was considered a western disease. However, this has changed in the recent times as hypertension levels in Africa have even surpassed those of Europe and the U.S. Poor populations in Africa have not been spared either. Urbanization in Africa has introduced new lifestyle trends that have swept across the entire continent. Sadly, this habit has contributed to a higher prevalence of diseases as people are indulging in unhealthy lifestyles such as eating bad food and lack of exercise.

Africa faces unique challenges which have hampered the fight against hypertension. In most cases, many people on the continent have no idea they suffer from hypertension and therefore, fail to seek treatment in good time. The high cost of medication has locked out many people from getting the best treatment for hypertension. However, the good news is you can manage hypertension using effective and safe home remedies.

In addition, hypertension can be easily detected especially by routinely checking your blood pressure. In many African countries, patients who develop hypertension often have no idea they have the disease. For Africa to effectively fight hypertension, there is urgent need for increased awareness about the disease. It is incumbent upon governments to provide better healthcare facilities to ensure the population gets quality services.

Hypertension rates vary from one part of the continent to another. According to statistics, West Africa has the lowest rate of hypertension at 15%, East Africa 25% and South Africa 42%-54%. From the figures, it is evident this condition is real in Africa and spreading fast because of scarcity of health resources, presence of diseases such as malaria, HIV and TB and little awareness on hypertension. While Africa is undergoing an economic transformation which is a good thing but it is important for governments and stakeholders to ensure emerging lifestyle diseases are adequately handled.

Cardiovascular disease is now among the leading causes of death in Africa as the numbers keep getting higher. This is a cause for worry as hypertension and related disease not only affect the health of the general public, but also impact negatively on economic growth as people become sick and unable to work or die leaving their families in poverty. Africa can succeed in the fight against hypertension if there are sustainable and effective best practices as well as community-based programs that encourage both early screening and treatment of hypertension.

There needs to be a concerted effort to educate the masses about hypertension, what causes it and how to prevent or treat the disease. Prevention and control of hypertension in Africa requires formulation of policies and careful implementation via a multi-sectoral model and close cooperation that brings together government bodies as well other stakeholders in the health industry. As we celebrate the gains the continent has achieved, it is important to ensure that diseases such as hypertension are kept at bay. It is time for Africans to realize that times have changed and lifestyle diseases are here with us. Experts encourage people to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and avoid stress as some of the simple measures that can help to keep hypertension at bay.

Original post by Africa.com


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