Healthy diet, exercises are pivotal in preventing Cardiovascular Diseases – WHO


By Cecilia Ologunagba
Abuja, Nov. 3, 2020 The World Health Organisation (WHO) Nigeria office has emphasised the importance of healthy diet
and exercises in the prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs).

CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels.

The WHO Nigeria office made this known in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, also posted on the WHO Regional Office for Africa website.

The statement quoted Nasir Ali, a domestic worker residing in FCT, Abuja, as saying “the daily exercise routine I adopted has helped me;
my body feels way better, and my blood pressure hardly rises.

“Stopping alcohol consumption and reducing the amount of tobacco I consume has also made me healthier, I have lost so much weight and my lab tests are showing progress in my health.’’

Nasir was a chain smoker and a habitual drinker, apart from that, he was overweight, and these risk factors put him at high risk of CVDs.

At some point, he had constant heart palpitations and high blood pressure which made him to consult a doctor.

After a thorough diagnosis, the doctor advised him to quit alcohol, smoking and start regular exercise as the only way to keep fit and lower his chances of cardiovascular diseases.

He took the advice and is currently doing fine.

According to Dr Nnenna Ezeigwe, the Director and National Coordinator of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Federal Ministry of Health, CVDs is a significant public health concern responsible for 11 per cent of over two million NCD deaths in Nigeria annually.

The WHO statement then quoted Ezeigwe as saying “CVDs is responsible for high burden of morbidity.

Most people with CVDs are not aware until catastrophes like stroke, heart attack, or death occurs.”

She added that “the economic burden of NCDs on families and the country in general is significant because the cost of treatment is high.

“The cost is high, usually paid out of pocket and death is mostly premature.”

CVDs are the number one cause of death globally, four out of five CVDs deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one-third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age.

The WHO 2018 Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Nigeria country profile shows NCD caused 29 per cent of all deaths and Cardiovascular Diseases accounted for 11 per cent of mortality.

A study conducted in Nigeria released in 2020 reported a prevalence of 38.1 per cent for hypertension and 26.1 per cent stroke.

At a recent event to commemorate the 2020 World Heart Day in Abuja, WHO Nigeria Country Representative, Dr Walter Mulombo, listed the risk factors of CVDs.

These, according to him, include raised blood pressure, glucose and lipids, as well as obesity.

Mulombo said “these can all be easily measured in primary healthcare facilities. Identifying those at highest risk of CVDs and ensuring they receive appropriate treatment can prevent premature deaths.

“People should pay special attention to diet and exercise as they play a significant role in preventing CVDs.

“Also, access to essential Non-Communicable Disease medicines and basic health technologies in all primary health care facilities is essential to ensure that those in need receive treatment and counselling.”

CVDs are the most common NCDs in Nigeria which claim the lives of around 17.9 million people each year, and it results in 31 per cent of all global deaths.

These diseases, which manifest primarily as heart attacks and strokes, are triggered by the use of tobacco, unhealthy diets, the lack of physical activity, and alcohol abuse.

All of these unhealthy lifestyle choices result in raised blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, obesity, and these risks are detrimental to good heart health.

The UN said that in spite of the high burden of Cardiovascular Diseases, Primary Healthcare Centres do not have the capacity to manage NCDs.

It added that WHO Nigeria, with funding from Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL), was implementing a National Hypertension Control Initiative, aimed at strengthening hypertension management at PHC level.

Also, to address issues with national data, WHO is working with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) with funding from RTSL and other partners to conduct STEPwise Approach to Surveillance
of Non-communicable Diseases (STEPS) survey to provide a national estimate for NCDs and the risk factors.

In July 2020, WHO supported FMoH to establish an NCD Expert Technical Working Group (TWG) which would coordinate all partners working on NCD space in the country, while WHO continued to support the TWG.

WHO, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently supporting FMoH to implement tobacco control activities which led to the successful training of legal officers from different organisations on tobacco control laws in the country.

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