By Ali Khatau
Not many people know this, but hypertension is a very common health condition in Tanzania.
Recently, I volunteered to be part of an eye camp where citizens were checked for eye complications and then referred for surgery if it was found to be necessary, such as the cases of cataracts.
Patients referred for surgery had to be first checked for hypertension and diabetes by medical professionals. Being one of the volunteers who was checking the blood pressure of the patients, I noticed quite a significant number had elevated blood pressure.
Upon asking if they knew about it prior, they did not have the slightest idea that they had the condition. It was quite alarming especially considering long term hypertension eventually would lead to heart disease and death.
Hypertension also known as high blood pressure is a medical condition where the pressure of the blood flowing through the arteries is constantly higher than normal.
If not treated early on, the condition may lead to other complications including heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, heart failure and even vision loss.
Understanding the numbers
Hypertension is divided into two categories, primary and secondary. Primary hypertension comprises of more than 90 per cent of the cases as it’s caused by unspecific lifestyle and genetic factors while secondary hypertension comprises of the remaining 10 per cent and is due to an underlying illness that elevates the blood pressure for example kidney disease.
The normal blood pressure at rest ranges from 100-140mmHg systolic and 60-90mmHg diastolic in adults. The ideal pressure in adults is 120/80 mmHg. An individual is diagnosed with hypertension if his blood pressure is above 140/90mmHg while anything below 100/60mmHg is considered hypotension (low blood pressure), the opposite of hypertension.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hypertension affects a massive 1.1 billion people worldwide equivalent to around 14 per cent of the global population. WHO also mentions that hypertension causes around 7.5 million deaths worldwide, which is equivalent to 12.8 per cent of all deaths.
Sadly, the WHO mentions that the prevalence of hypertension was highest in Africa where it was 46 per cent for both sexes combined. Men usually have higher prevalence of hypertension than women. Hypertension, according to the World Heart Federation is the single most important risk factors for strokes and causes around 50 per cent of ischemic strokes.