Abuja — High blood pressure or hypertension, which was rare and regarded as a disease for the aged, is increasingly becoming prevalent among young people in Nigeria, findings by LEADERSHIP Friday have revealed.
Checks by this paper showed that a large percentage of patients that go to hospital for different health problems are discovered to have high blood pressure.
It was gathered that most of the patients are not even aware of their situation, but only get to find out when they visit the hospital for different health problems.
During a visit to one of the general hospitals in Abuja, our correspondent witnessed a situation where a middle aged woman who went for an eye problem and in the cause of taking her vital before seeing a doctor, discovered that her blood pressure was 250/150.
She was told by the doctor that the high blood pressure could actually be the cause of her eye problem.
A nurse in the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity said such situations were common and it showed that Nigerians lack health seeking behaviour as they only go to the hospital when they are down with an illness.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), normal blood pressure in adults is measured by millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is recorded in two numbers. The first is the systolic blood pressure (the highest pressure in blood vessels), which is the pressure when the heart contracts. It ideally ranges between 115 and 120 mmHg.
"The second is the diastolic blood pressure (the lowest pressure in blood vessels), which is the pressure while the heart relaxes and dilates. It ideally ranges between 75 and 80 mmHg. Blood pressure is considered high if the systolic measurement is 140 mmHg or more and/or the diastolic measurement is 90 mmHg or more," it noted.
In an exclusive interview, a consultant family physician at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr Chira Obiora, said the current rise in hypertension among the younger generation is largely due to lifestyle changes.
According to him, high blood pressure is divided into two major parts - the essential hypertension and the non-essential hypertension.
The essential hypertension, Obiora said, is hypertension that is basically due to lifestyle or environmental factors with little genetic compound while the non - essential hypertension is basically due to secondary causes like kidney disease, renal disease and other diseases.
He stated: "The lifestyles of the youth have changed. It's not like how our fathers used to be when they were younger. Youths are now living a sedentary lifestyle, indulging in things that affect their kidneys, for example, taking excessive alcohol and substance abuse. These are some of the things that can also lead to high blood pressure.
"Food intake also, some of them now take foods that contain a lot of salt (sodium chloride) based on eating junks. These are indicated in blood pressure because the kidney cannot handle that.
"Also, some other diseases are coming higher in the lives of the younger ones like renal diseases and the rest of them. Some are now coming down with sugar handling diseases like diabetes, and diabetes goes hand in hand with hypertension. These are some of the things that lead to or contribute to having high prevalence of hypertension among younger ages in Nigeria."
On the way out, Obiora identified changing of lifestyle, regular checking of blood pressure, regular activities and dietary modification as key.
The physician noted that time had passed when people below 30 or 40 years felt they didn't have business with checking blood pressure, while urging that it should be checked as regularly as possible.
He added that there is a new development in hypertension called MISSED, a very dangerous hypertension where the blood pressure appears normal in the hospital whereas the person's blood pressure is actually not normal.
This development, Obiora said, has encouraged the call for people to get blood pressure monitoring apparatus at home so that they can check it regularly.
"We should make it mandatory to check our blood pressure regularly, at least twice a month. By checking, there will be a lot of consciousness and some of these problems can be picked when they are still coming up.
"For us to change our lifestyle, improve on our activities and food intake, dietary modification, reduce use of salt, eat more foods that are low in carbohydrates and reduce cholesterol intake. For instance, the cholesterol in egg is enormous and your body needs just 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day, when you fill up the body with eggs, then with cholesterol from other things like meat and others, you will always be having excess of cholesterol and these are some of the risk factors resulting in hypertension, " he explained.
Also, a former president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Mike Ogirima, told our correspondent that there are different things that are related to high blood pressure.
According to him, most high blood pressure cases are in the group of essential, where there is no cause, adding that there are some causes which are modifiable while others non- modifiable.
He said, "Among the modifiable causes is being a male gender - males tend to have more chances of developing hypertension. The second is age and the third is personality. These are non-modifiable factors. The modifiable include way of life, obesity, stress and recently, drugs and alcohol have a lot of effect on blood pressure."
On the way out, Ogirima called for increased awareness and advised that anybody from age 18 should check their blood pressure every six months.
On the cost of hypertension medication, the chairman, FCT chapter of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm. Jelili Kilani, said there are cheap and costly drugs; the branded ones are costly while the generic ones are cheap.
Kilani, who is the Head of Pharmacy Department, National Hospital Abuja, said, "It depends on somebody's financial power. It doesn't mean that the branded ones are better but they actually work better and there are also a lot of generics that are effective."
He further noted that what affects the way the drugs work is good compliance. When people follow the rules and the issue of lifestyle affects the efficacy of drugs, he said.
"It depends on the number of drugs one is taking, if the BP is properly managed, a person can be on one drug but if is getting out of control, the person might be placed on two or three or even four different drugs, but for it to develop into using two or three drugs, one has to follow the instructions."