Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has bemoaned the prevalence of hypertension in Zimbabwe especially among urban-based residents.
However, thousands who suffer from high blood pressure are unaware.
Reports show that 39 percent of both male and females may be suffering from the silent killer which is one of the leading causes of death in the country.
Defined as the condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high, hypertension can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle.
The non-communicable disease has no symptoms and overtime if untreated, it can cause health conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
People living in urban areas are at a higher risk of hypertension based on their usually sedentary lifestyles.
Eating a healthier diet with less salt, exercising regularly and taking medication can help lower blood pressure and these lifestyle-related behaviours have been proven to be effective in preventing and treating hypertension.
High blood pressure which is not managed can lead to impaired vision, severe headache, chest pain and difficulty in breathing.
These problems can complicate and cause heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, blindness, rupture of blood vessels followed by paralysis and death.
Such complications are preventable through early detection of high blood pressure and management once detected.
“There is a very high prevalence of hypertension (high blood pressure) among urban Zimbabweans. Most people with hypertension are unaware of the problem because it may have no warning signs or symptoms,” said WHO in a statement.
“It is essential that blood pressure is measured regularly so that members of the public are aware of their condition which may prevent many deaths.”
WHO suggested that people should follow a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight as obesity increases one’s risk to hypertension.
According to the organisation, members of the public should not smoke or abuse alcohol and must get enough sleep and lead stress-free lives.
In an interview, a local physician Dr Mxolisi Ngwenya said the prevalence in urban areas was a result of the fast life that Zimbabweans practice.
“Recent studies that have been done show that hypertension is quite common in urban areas due to the fact that people in such areas tend to live more stressful, fast lives which we know to be a significant contributor to high blood pressure.
The other thing is because of this modernisation. People tend to consume a lot of fast, high fat and high cholesterol food,” said Dr Ngwenya.
“People spent most of their time seated in offices and they do not care to walk or exercise, which worsens the whole situation.”
According to Dr Ngwenya regular exercise reduces the risk and progression of hypertension.
“In addition to lack of exercise, people in urban areas tend to eat lots of processed foods and they take too much salt which exposes them to high blood pressure.”
Epidemiology and disease control director Dr Portia Manangazira recently said she was concerned with the continued increase of hypertension cases, considering that recorded figures were only for people who present to health institutions.
“We think this is just a tip of an iceberg since these people are only checked for hypertension when they visit our health facilities presenting with other illnesses,” said Dr Manangazira.
She said the Government was seeking funding to conduct a national survey on the actual prevalence of hypertension to enable the designing of an appropriate programme to combat the silent killer. — @thamamoe