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Cardiovascular disease on the prowl in Nigeria

By Sola Ogundipe
STRONG indications have emerged that Nigerians are now at great risk of developing cardiovascular (heart) disease which currently accounts for one-third of all deaths worldwide.

The development follows the steady rise in incidence of hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and other unhealthy lifestyle conditions in the country in recent times.

Experts who noted this trend during the 2nd cardiovascular summit organised by multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer Specialities Nigeria Ltd in Lagos recently, are concerned that more incidences of the conditions are being reported in all parts of the country.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term that refers to any

of a number of diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels.

In the view of Dr. Victor Ansa a consultant physician/cardiologist, the increase of CVD burden in Nigeria and other developing countries is due to prevalence of risk factors and lack of access to interventions.

He cited a study which showed that five risk factors - current/former tobacco use, hypertension, diabetes, abdominal obesity and dyslipidaemia were responsible for 89.2 per cent of risk of initial myocardial infarction in Africa . 

“These data confirm that people from Africa who are exposed to these major cardiovascular risk factors are at risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) as are others across the globe.

The more the risk factors, the greater the chance of developing cardiovascular disease; the effect it multiplicative.

Also speaking, renowned cardiologist and world acclaimed authority in the study of cholesterol, Prof. Peter Lansberg described high cholesterol and obesity as dangerous CVD risk factors.

He said the impact of cholesterol on the heart was neglected for almost 50 years until the development of the new “statin” group of cholesterol-lowering drugs a few years back.     

He stated that CVD is not a “physiological” disease but a condition caused by changes in lifestyle, which explains why it is closely linked with metabolic conditions like diabetes.

“Somebody once said ‘genetic points the gun but environment pulls the trigger,’” he further said, explaining that the rise in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in societies across the world was synonymous with changes, over the years, in lifestyle and a switch from diets based on natural foods that are rich in high fibre, minerals and vitamins, low in calories, salt and sugar to diets based on fatty foods with high calories .

“Going for obesity or high weight really translate to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease,” he warned, adding that lowering cholesterol would automatically lead to a reduction in CVD risk.

“Unfortunately, you don’t see high cholesterol. You don’t see cholesterol going up so people don’t see the need to treat it.

He urged doctors to commence aggressive treatment of high cholesterol as soon as it is detected so as to prevent the complications of CVD.

Apart from drug treatment and, in some cases surgery, the eminent cardiologist recommended daily physical activitiey and adoption of the Mediterranean diet – a diet rich in fruits, vegetable, fish, olive oil, proper management of hypertension   – sometimes using aspirin – as other vital factors that could help in the management of CVD risks.

Medical Director, Pfizer, Nigeria /East Africa Region (NEAR) Dr, Kodjo Soroh reiterated the company’s goal of creating necessary awareness on CVD in Nigeria as a measure to help check its rising profile in the country. 

He said the aim of the  summit was, in addition to creating awareness among Nigerians.

Also to draw attention to management guidelines on the disease, create an avenue for clinicians, specialists and other healthcare professionals to share ideas on the need for intensive lipid lowering, hypertension/diabetes dynamics and the patient’s role in the management of CVD.


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