Heart Failure: Nollywood’s Number One Killer Is A Real Life Thing!

150,000 people die of heart-related diseases every year in Nigeria. This number is expected to increase to 23 million by the year 2030.

Thirty four percent of the adult population in Nigeria live with High Blood Pressure, and most of these cases occur before the patients turn 50. The number is said to be on a rise, as a result of poor dieting, little to no exercise and other harmful habits.

These alarming stats were shared by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, during the commemoration of the World Heart day last September. In a nation where the phrase: “Health is wealth” is touted endlessly, one would expect that these facts would have been given due attention and treated as urgently important.

The opposite, however, is the case.

The typical Nigerian can’t find the time and doesn’t feel the need to think about the heart; not with the economic situation in the country, not when there are bills to pay, and especially not when there are pots of delicious, greasy meals to be consumed.

As such, most continue to live their lives with little care for the muscle that – all pun intended – is at the heart of human life. This behavior, coupled with the immense stress that comes with living in our country, is why the life expectancy of the average Nigerian is slightly above 50.

Swiss multinational, Norvatis, in collaboration with a group of esteemed Nigerian cardiologists recently held a program in a bid to tackle this lack of awareness. The event was held at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja and one of the big takeaways was that Nigerians – owing to our generally unhealthy habits – are more prone to heart failure.

The situation is dire; according to recent data collected from teaching hospitals across Nigeria, 30% of admissions are related to heart failure and over 50% of patients die after five years of initial discovery if the condition is not properly managed.

Still, bad habits are just one part of the story; there are several factors at play here. In some cases, heart failure can be triggered by hypertension, rheumatic heart disease, and lung disease. However, the factor that poses the biggest threat is poverty.

Dr. Kamilu Karaye, a cardiologist from Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital (AKTH) and one of the speakers present, explained that people from a poor background and those dwelling in rural or impoverished communities are more at risk of heart failure owing to lack of adequate medical facilities, a lack of awareness and exorbitant medication costs (Estimated at N200,000).

He also called on the government for help in making these drugs affordable and providing beneficial health plans/schemes to help truncate the mortality rate significantly.

However, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and despite the seemingly defeating conditions, there are ways to overcome this growing epidemic.

To share the few listed at the Norvatis event:

  1. Cultivate a healthy lifestyle through healthy habits:

A healthy lifestyle was recognized as the major key in preventing heart failure, it is the most effective solution to the disease which consistently claims millions of lives all over the world every year. So, in everyday life, this means eat healthier foods, look for healthier alternatives to conventional cooking oils, exercise more, eat less junk food and so on. You all know the drill.

  1. Patients need to be shown proper treatment:

The experts stressed that Nigerians have a pivotal role to play in helping curtail some of the conditions that accompany heart failure by constantly showing love, care, and support to the patients of the disease – as depression is a common end result of heart failure patients which most times results in suicide.

Also, caregivers of heart failure patients were also encouraged to be more tolerant and empathetic towards them as long-term medication and constant discomfort could have a psychological or behavioral effect on the patients

  1. Early diagnosis or detection is key:

The cardiologists revealed that many patients ignore the early signs and symptoms, causing the disease to progress to a chronic stage.  Some of the symptoms highlighted include: irregular heartbeat, swollen legs, fatigue, constant tiredness, and general discomfort. That said, a regular medical check-up, should be a habit; do not wait till you feel like dying before you go see your doctor. Remember, the doctor is your friend.

  1. Minimize Stress:

Being human is hard, and being a Nigerian human is harder; we all receive in one day, the equivalent of years’ worth of stress. Still, if we’re going to live long, healthy lives, we have to find ways to deal with this stress. Meditation is rapidly growing in approval as one of the best ways to combat the effects of stress. Another overlooked but trivial habit is self-care; making time out to give your body and mind the treatment they deserve for being such faithful servants.

Heart failure is a condition that’s rampant in Nigeria, and it is steadily growing. It’s probably the number one cause of death in Nollywood movies, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us.

That said, it is not a monster we can’t handle if we commit to living healthier lives and promoting healthier values and alternatives to living life.

All it takes is a decision, a decision I hope you, the reader makes today.

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