The number of deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease (CVD) has exploded in Africa in recent years, and CVD is currently the third leading killer in the region, closely behind HIV/AIDS and respiratory infections. This condition that mainly affects the heart is the leading of deaths among all other non-communicable diseases in the African region, accounting for more than 1/3 of all NCD deaths.
The key question therefore is: What can I do to avoid being part of that stark statistic? Below are some golden rules to keep cardio vascular conditions at bay:
Be aware of your medical history
Hypertension or elevated blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for CVD, and is estimated to affect nearly half of adult’s aged 25 years and older in Africa, and its prevalence is expected to grow, affecting 150 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa alone by 2025. This simply means that it should be on your radar.
Hypertension is silent, and may go for many years undetected until it starts affecting vital organs in the body including the heart. With such a condition, a conscious, proactive approach to prevention is essential. First, you’ll need to know whether your parents or grandparents suffer from the condition, given that those with a genetic predisposition are more at risk of developing complications. Getting screened regularly is also highly recommended, regardless of age or health status.
It is estimated that less than 10% of people with hypertension have access to effective treatment in many African countries. This is partly due to the lack of awareness about the condition, as well as the fact that health facilities are not equipped to address the condition both in terms of basic equipment such as blood pressure cuffs as well as medicines. Fortunately, this is set to change as a number of initiatives to boost prevention, screening and treatment of hypertension are gaining ground in the region.
Reduce your risks by adjusting your lifestyle
Having a normal blood pressure level should not be an excuse to avoid the ever-critical healthy living adjustments that almost guarantee to keep you safe from hypertension. Start by adjusting your diet by reducing your intake of saturated and trans fats and sodium, which is mostly found in salt. Consider adopting an eating plan such as D.A.S.H as well as educating yourself on nutritional improvements practices and options.
Enjoying physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are also key to preventing the elevation of your blood pressure levels. Physical activity not only helps you to control your pressure, but it also helps you manage your weight and manage your stress levels which should also be kept at a minimum. Tobacco is to be avoided (including secondhand smoking), while alcohol should be kept at a minimum, as they both lead to the elevation of your blood pressure for long periods of time, even after exposure.
Comply with treatment prescription
In the event that you are diagnosed as having elevated blood pressure (When your blood pressure is 140 or higher for your systolic pressure – top number-, OR 90 or higher for your diastolic pressure -bottom number), your health care provider will most likely prescribe a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.