With the changing profile of diseases Hypertension in Kenya is becoming quite common and is affecting those we would consider least likely to be affected. The number of people under the age of 40 that are affected is higher than it has ever been.
Some sources indicate that between 37-44% of the adult population in Kenya has hypertension. An even more scary fact is that majority of the people affected by hypertension in Kenya are not even aware that they are hypertensive.
In 2008 it was estimated that Kenyans were spending at least 24 million dollars on medication to control blood pressure. At that time demand for antihypertensive medication was rising by 5.5% annually.
With urbanization and changing lifestyles characterized by lack of physical exercise and ingestion of high calorie processed foods as a country we are courting chronic diseases chief of them hypertension which is a leading cause of preventable premature death in the developing world.
What Is Blood Pressure?
The heart pumps blood round the body to supply oxygen and other essential nutrients. As the blood is pumped it pushes against the walls of the blood vessels (arteries and veins). The force created by this push is what is referred to as blood pressure. If the pressure is too high it will put a strain on the arteries and the heart this is what constitutes high blood pressure also known as hypertension. Over time this elevated pressure may lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke or kidney diseases.
How can I tell if I have high blood pressure?
When blood pressure is elevated you will not feel sick or notice any changes; there are no signs or symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is elevated is to have it measured.
Blood pressure is measured using a machine that may be manual or electronic. The measurements are given as millimeters of mercury. The pressure reading is usually given as 2 numbers.
What do the numbers mean?
Blood pressure readings consist of 2 numbers shown as one number on top of the other. The top number is known as the systolic pressure which is the pressure when the heart has contracted and the lower number is the diastolic pressure which is the lowest level blood pressure reaches when the heart relaxes between beats.
What is normal?
The ideal blood pressure should be below 120/ 80. At this level the risk for heart disease and stroke is significantly reduced.
What is high?
Readings that are consistently above 140/ 90 indicate a diagnosis of hypertension.
Readings that consistently range between 120/80 and 140/90 will be considered to be pre hypertension.
A single reading of an elevated blood pressure does not mean that you are hypertensive. Blood pressure has to be monitored over time to arrive at a conclusion of hypertension.
What is low?
Blood pressure is considered to be low if it is less than 90/60.
Some people may generally have a low blood pressure. It is however important to talk to your doctor if your blood pressure is low especially if it causes symptoms such as dizziness.
What causes high blood pressure?
Lifestyle is a major contributing factor for the development of hypertension in Kenya.
The risk is higher if:
You are overweight
You are not active enough (have a sedentary lifestyle)
You eat too much salt
You do not eat enough fruits and vegetables
You drink too much alcohol
You smoke tobacco
Other factors that increase the risk are increasing age and a family history of hypertension.
Hypertension in Kenya may also be linked to other medical conditions such as kidney disease or may even be linked to pregnancy.
How does high blood pressure affect the body?
When blood pressure is elevated it puts additional strain on the heart and blood vessels. Over time this may cause the blood vessels to become weaker or damaged. This raises the likelihood of having serious health problems in the future.
Damage to the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle this leads to heart disease and may eventually lead to a heart attack or heart failure.
When blood vessels in the brain are damaged it may lead to a stroke. Some forms of dementia have also be closely linked.
Are also at risk of failure which may call for dialysis or a transplant.
Will also be affected and there may be declining vision which may eventually lead to loss of sight.
Controlling Blood Hypertension In Kenya
If blood pressure is well controlled the risk of developing complications associated with hypertension reduces drastically.
Diet, level of physical activity and body weight have a real effect on blood pressure. If your blood pressure is elevated you can start lowering it today by eating a healthy diet and being more physical activity.
Healthy eating and blood pressure
Reduce salt intake, eat more fruits and vegetables and limit alcohol intake.
Exercise and adequate physical activity
Being more physically active and engaging in regular exercise keeps the heart and arteries in good condition thus lowering blood pressure.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Maintaining the right weight ensures the heart doesn’t have to work so hard. This reduced strain on the heart helps to reduce blood pressure.
Medication for hypertension
When lifestyle modification is not adequate medication for help lower blood pressure is important.
The medication plays an important role to reduce risk for stroke and heart attacks.
The doctor may prescribe one drug or a combination of drugs depending on the level of the blood pressure and if there are other accompanying medical conditions.
Preventing Hypertension In Kenya
The need to be proactive as far as our blood pressure is concerned cannot be overemphasized.
Eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco use, limiting alcohol consumptions and maintaining a healthy weight are some of the ways that the risk of developing hypertension can be reduced.
click here for more information on Preventing Hypertension