Nigeria: Diet and Exercises Are Pivotal in Preventing Cardiovascular Diseases

Human heart. Cardiovascular diseases is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.

Abuja, October 02, 2020 - "The daily exercise routine I adopted has helped me a long way, my body feels way better, and my blood pressure hardly rises."

"Stopping alcohol consumption and reducing the amount of tobacco I consume has also made me healthier, I have lost so much weight and my lab tests are showing progress in my health" stated Nasir Ali, a domestic worker residing in FCT, Abuja.

Nasir was a chain smoker and a habitual drinker, apart from that he was quite overweight, and these risk factors put him at a high risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). At some point, he had constant heart palpitations and high blood pressure which made him consult a doctor. After a thorough diagnosis, the doctor advised him to quit alcohol, smoking and indulge in regular exercise as that's the only way to keep fit and lower his chances of cardiovascular diseases. He took the advice and is currently doing fine.

According to Dr Nnenna Ezeigwe, Director/National Coordinator of Non-Communicable Diseases FMoH, "CVDs is a significant public health concern responsible for 11% of over 2 million NCD deaths in Nigeria annually, and responsible for a high burden of morbidity. Most people with CVDs are not aware until catastrophes like stroke, heart attack, or death occur."

She added that "the economic burden of NCDs on families and the country, in general, is significant because the cost of treatment is high, usually paid out of pocket and death is mostly premature, cutting victims at their prime of productivity."

CVDs are the number one cause of death globally, four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one-third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age. CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. The World Health Organization (WHO) 2018 Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Nigeria country profile shows NCD caused 29% of all deaths and Cardiovascular diseases accounted for 11% of mortality. A study conducted in Nigeria released in 2020 reported a prevalence of 38.1% for hypertension and 26.1% stroke.

At a recent event to commemorate the 2020 World Heart Day Abuja, the World Health Organization (WHO) Nigeria Country Representative Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo mentioned the risk factors of CVDs which include raised blood pressure, glucose, and lipids as well as overweight and obesity.

He added that "These can all be easily measured in primary care facilities. Identifying those at highest risk of CVDs and ensuring they receive appropriate treatment can prevent premature deaths."

"People should pay special attention to diet and exercise as they play a significant role in preventing CVDs. Also, access to essential noncommunicable disease medicines and basic health technologies in all primary health care facilities is essential to ensure that those in need receive treatment and counseling."

CVDs are the most common NCDs in Nigeria which claim the lives of around 17.9 million people each year, and it results in 31% of all global deaths. These diseases, which manifest primarily as heart attacks and strokes, are triggered by the use of tobacco, unhealthy diets, a lack of physical activity, and alcohol abuse. All of these unhealthy lifestyle choices result in raised blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, overweight and obesity, and these risks detrimental are to good heart health.

Despite the high burden of cardiovascular diseases, Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) do not manage NCDs and to this end, WHO Nigeria with funding from Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL) is implementing a National Hypertension Control Initiative aimed at strengthening hypertension management at PHC level.

Also, to address issues with national data, WHO is working with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and funding from RTSL and other partners to conduct STEPs survey which will provide a national estimate for NCDs and their risk factors.

In July 2020, WHO supported FMOH to establish an NCD expert Technical Working Group. The NCD TWG will coordinate all partners working on NCD space in the country. WHO has continued support for the TWG.

WHO with funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently supporting FMOH to implement tobacco control activities which have led to the successful training of legal officers from different organizations on Tobacco control laws in the country. NCD focal persons in the 36 +1 States have also been sensitized on tobacco control activities in the country.

Technical Contact:

Dr Msyamboza, Kelias; Email: msyambozak [at] who.int; Tel: +234 906 278 4292

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