Unmute The Menace: Speak Up Against Hypertension

By Isaac Asabor

There is no denying the fact that lexicographers unanimously agree that the word, “Silence” means the avoidance of mentioning or discussing something. The word "silence" can be used both as a noun and a verb. As a noun, it primarily refers to “The complete absence of sound” or “The state of abstaining from speech”. It can also mean the avoidance of mentioning or discussing something, or a period of time during which people stand still and do not speak as a sign of respect for someone who has passed away.

As a verb, "silence" means to prohibit or prevent someone from speaking, to stop or suppress something, or to prevent the expression of something.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is not an exaggeration to opine that one of the issues that has for long been treated with abject silence in our contemporary society is Hypertension otherwise known as the “silent killer”.

All over the world, May 17 is yearly set aside for the commemoration of World Hypertension Day. It is a day set aside for the purpose of creating public awareness on hypertension and encourage citizens of all countries to prevent and control this silent killer that is also referred to as the modern epidemic.

The theme for year 2012 is “Healthy lifestyle Healthy Blood Pressure” while the theme for 2011 was “Know Your Number and Target Your Blood Pressure”. The reason for making reference to themes of the celebration of the Day in the years gone by in this context cannot be farfetched as the theme is always self-explanatory, instructional and enlightening. Thus, the theme for 17 May 2024 is: "Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer"

For the sake of clarity, the World Hypertension Day was first inaugurated in May 2005, and since then it has become an annual event all over the world.

It is germane to opine at this juncture that the late Professor. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti as a minister of health not only made primary health care a priority but ensured he created public awareness and understanding about public health issues relating to primary health care, safe motherhood, child survival and HIV/AIDS throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In as much as this piece is not intended to be a memorial on the earthly journey of the Professor that ended on June 1, 2003, it is pertinent to posthumously praise him for his exemplary service as the minister of health. Suffice it to say that the late Professor lived to give the health sector a direction, and that in that direction lies the success of the health sector. No doubt, he left a template that would guide the direction of the health sector. Unfortunately, it appears the template is yet to be duplicated by any minister of health since he died; 21 years ago.

Today, as I write this piece, many Nigerians are oblivious of the fact that May 17, since 2005, is yearly set aside as World Hypertension Day not to talk of knowing that hypertension is a silent killer.

At the moment, there is a grave silence on the prevention and control of hypertension.

The only information Nigerians seem to have on the disease appear to be the one provided by profit-driven herbal medicine vendors that are wont to use comedy as a vehicle of hawking their products.

As it is now, it is not an overstatement to say that millions of Nigerians are silently dying of hypertension due to ignorance. The governments, from local to federal level, are not creating awareness on the deadly disease. Even if they are creating awareness on the disease, as they would admit upon reading this article, the fact remains that they are not doing enough by embarking on an efficient and effective campaign by partnering with professional communicators in the media.

Many Nigerians are ignorant of the fact that a great percentage of the deaths that occur in the country are due to heart disease and stroke. Many do not know that people suffering from hypertension are much more vulnerable to suffer heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and thickening and hardening of the arteries.

It is very disappointing that our various ministries, departments and agencies in our health sector that would have collectively been in a better position of concertedly creating awareness on hypertension; euphemistically called silent killer are not doing so. In my personal view, government involvement in providing adequate information on this debilitating disease would have gone a long way in helping those that are hypertensive to be able to manage and lower the levels of both their cholesterol and blood pressure. This, no doubt, would significantly lower their risk of having heart attacks and strokes.

So many people are ignorant of the epidemical dimension which hypertension has taken particularly on the elderly and vibrant young men and women. To understand the extent of people’s ignorance on hypertension, let us have a view on the mindset of the generality of Nigerians concerning hypertension. For instance, whenever Mr. A. informs Mr. B. that he has been diagnosed of hypertension, Mr. B. would thoughtlessly say that Mr. A is either temperamental or worrying over an issue.

Mr. B. may be right to some extent, but it appears he is ignorant of the fact that so many things, apart from being temperamental and worrisome, can increase the risk of hypertension. First and foremost, for those who smoke, it is healthier for them to kick the habit while it is advisable for those that are overweight to cut down their weight.

Also, there is this habit of those doing white collar jobs to be on their seats for a very long time on non-ergonomic chair; sometimes from 8.00am to 5.00pm without bothering to observe their break period. They should put a stop to the habit. At less busy times, they can once in a while walk around the office or factory. As widely proffered by health experts, particularly on health-based websites, it is advisable for people to cultivate the culinary habit of eating healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, less sugar and fatty foods. Also, people should avoid foods that are high in saturated fats such as butter, cheese, fatty-meat, yokes, sausage, liver and kidney.

Finally, I am using this medium to urge our ministries, departments and agencies in our health sector, and even Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to break their silence on hypertension by keeping the people informed. The best way to manage health issues is through the adoption of preventive measures by consistently creating awareness on its prevention and control rather than through curative measures. Again, this piece calls for action and emphasizes the importance of raising awareness about the ‘silent killer’ that is hypertension. In fact, it would be encouraging for both individuals and authorities to break the silence on this critical health issue.