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The contemporary Nigerian Socio-economic Conditions and Incidences of Cardiac diseases –what Management options are available. Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by ifeoma umeche, Nigeria Aug 24, 2007
Health   Opinions
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Nigeria is faced with a rising population, the over exploitation of natural resources, the tendency to focus on achieving short-term development objectives at the expense of longer term sustainability and a high poverty rate. Nigeria’s very existence is not only threatened by the prevailing socio-economic conditions, but also by many disease conditions. Of particular interest in this essay are cardiac diseases.

There are three broad categories of heart diseases: Congenital heart disease, Rheumatic heart disease and Ischemic heart disease. Congenitals are the ones that come by birth and the prevalence of this kind of disease is universally similar in terms of incidences. Valvular disease or rheumatic heart disease arises from complications of throat infection. The third category is called Ischemic heart disease, which arises from deficient blood supply to the cardiac muscles. The blood supply becomes blocked by the deposition of fats in the blood vessels. The incidence of this kind of heart ailment is ever increasing as a result of dietary factors, stress, pollution, and smoking diseases such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes mellitus.

No doubt, cardiac disease is becoming frequent in Nigeria and is currently a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Several factors that increase the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks have been identified by extensive clinical and statistical research. In a survey of cardiac risk factors in the population aged 25-26, high prevalence of hypertension smoking (mostly men) and obesity (mostly women) was revealed. The Nigerian Hypertension Society (NHS) estimates that 32 percent of the Nigerian population suffers from hypertension. It further states that at least one in three deaths worldwide are cardio vascular related. Indeed, the rising incidences of obesity, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles that may cause high blood pressure threaten to keep heart diseases on top of the list as the leading cause of death and disability throughout the world.

Several risk factors exposing a person to cardiac disease have been identified. While some can be controlled or modified others cannot. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chances of developing coronary heart disease. For example, Okafor has a very high total cholesterol (6.8MlmollL) and Chidinma has an elevated blood pressure of 162/100mmhg. Both are obviously at the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke if they do not lower their cholesterol and blood pressure respectively. Mildly elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels may not pose a threat to Charles but together they significantly increase his risk of developing heart disease later in life. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that Charles with his blood pressure and cholesterol levels has a similar risk of suffering a heart attack within ten years as Okafor and Chidinma.

An outlook of the Nigerian economy reveals a predominantly poor population most of whom are agrarian. Many find it hard to make earns meet and indeed live from hard to mouth. The lifestyles of the people are greatly affected by the economic index of the country, the purchasing power of these individuals and, to a larger extent, the vicissitudes of social life and societal value system. Some of the cardiac diseases interestingly affect indigent patients. For example, Rheumatic heart disease, an inflammatory disease of the heart is a disease of ghettos. Its incidence is very high in crowded and poor sanitary conditions. Paradoxically, the treatment of this disease is more expensive than the one that affect the risk. For example, in rheumatic heart disease, the valve is damaged. Some of them can be repaired at low cost, but majority of them would need expensive total replacement. Studies have shown that rheumatic heart disease affect the poor, ischemic heart disease affects the more affluent people and congenital heart disease does not discriminate between the rich and poor.

As a result of the present economic situation in Nigeria, many resort to petty trading, manual labour, working overtime, and other rigorous activities to earn a living. These activities build up stress in the individual. Of course, individual response to stress maybe a contributing factor. Scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person’s life, their health behaviors and socio economic status. These factors may affect established risk factors. For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would.

Medical evidence has shown that in most cases of heart patients in their early thirties, poor nutrition was responsible for their blood pressure levels soaring.

The air quality in Nigeria is no more pristine and is deteriorating rapidly. Vehicular traffic, industrial emissaries, the construction boom which is taking place in many of the metropolitan areas increase the levels of ambient particulates, smoke particles and dust in the atmosphere. Similarly, due to erratic power supply, business owners who can afford it and buoyant Nigerians alike purchase generator sets. These sets also increase the air pollution substantially when their cumulative output is considered. Furthermore, smoker’s risk of developing coronary heart disease is 2-4 times that of non-smokers.

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ifeoma umeche

Ifeoma Umeche lives in Abakaliki.
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