MISSUE NO. 3616 

April 19 - 24, 2013


 Coastweek   Kenya

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W.H.O. unhappy with high
level of hypertension in Kenya

prevention and control of high blood pressure will
go long way in reducing heart attacks and strokes

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday decried the high level of hypertension among the Kenyan public.

WHO Kenya Country Representative Dr Custodia Mandlhate told journalists in Nairobi that the prevalence of hypertension is highest in some low income countries in Africa.

“Some sources are indicating that between 37 to 44 percent of the Kenyan adult population has hypertension,” Mandlhate said during an occasion to mark the World Health Day. The day, which marks the 65th anniversary of the WHO, will be used advocate against hypertension.

“Hypertension is a major concern in Africa and without preventive action, an estimated 150 million people will suffer in the region by 2025,” the country representative said. 

She lauded efforts by the African governments aimed at tackling hypertension which is also known as high blood pressure.

“There is political will as health ministers have already committed themselves to the Brazzaville Declaration on Non Communicable Diseases,” she said.

Mandlhate also urged the speedy implementation of standardized guidelines for hypertension management in primary health care settings.

She noted that the condition already affects one billion people worldwide. According to the WHO, hypertension can affect anyone.

“Most of the people affected by the illness are not even aware of the disease and its complications,” she said.

High blood pressure is responsible for 1.6 million deaths worldwide each year with 80 percent of those deaths occurring in low-and middle-income countries, leading to extremely high levels of Cardiovascular Disease, more commonly known as heart disease.

The blood pressure reading is made up of two parts that are presented in the form of a fraction. The upper half is the so-called systolic and the lower is the diastolic – referring to the phase of the heart’s pumping action in which the pressure is measured.

One is said to have high blood pressure when the upper (systolic) reading is 140 mm and above, and/or when the lower (diastolic) reading is 90 mm and above.

There are several easy ways to ensure that you are high blood pressure free including regular blood pressure checking (at least once a year), reducing salt intake, avoid too much alcohol and tobacco smoking, eating a balanced diet, doing regular exercises and avoiding stress.

Those with the high blood pressure condition should take continuous medications or otherwise as advised by the doctor. Mandlhate added that the illness may become a drain on the financial resources of the majority of the people affected.

Ministry of Public Health Permanent Secretary Mark Bor said that the World Health Day provides a unique opportunity for communities as well as policy makers to promote actions that will improve health.

Bor noted that prevention and control of high blood pressure will go long way in reducing heart attacks and strokes. “Each individual is therefore called upon to take control of their own health by adopting a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

He noted that rapid urbanization as well as changing family patterns are having a significant impact on the health of people.

Ministry of Public Health, Director of Public Health Dr Shahnaz Sharif said that average blood pressure in Africa is now much higher than in Europe as its prevalence has increased among the poorer section of society.

“In Kenya, non communicable diseases currently contribute half of the top twenty morbidity cases. This is regrettable as prevention of hypertension is possible,” he said.

The director said that consistent high blood pressure can lead to damage of important organs in the body such as the heart, brain and blood vessels.

Ministry of Public Health, Head of Department of Disease Prevention and Control Dr Willis Akhwale said that in order to ensure a normal blood pressure, the public should eat food that contains less salt, avoid excessive alcohol intake and have regular exercise.

“For majority of the population lifestyle changes are sufficient to control blood pressure,” he said.

Ministry of Public Health, Head of Division of Non Communicable Diseases Dr Waihenya Mwangi said that in 2011, high blood pressure deaths accounted for 0.9 percent of all deaths, while loss of lives due to chronic heart disease contributed to 4.25 percent of all deaths.

“The government is therefore prioritizing the prevention of non communicable diseases through the use of a multi-sectoral approach, “ he said.

“This is will also ensure that hypertension drugs are available in all public hospitals,” he said.


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