The Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) has sounded an alarm over the increasing number of Ugandans battling hypertension, saying this is putting a strain on health facilities.
Dr James Kayima, a consultant cardiologist at UHI says their most recent estimates show that between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of Ugandans are battling high blood pressure.
"A third of Uganda's population probably has high blood pressure. So if the Ugandan population is about 46 million plus or maybe if you stretch it to 48 million, it means that between 15 to 18 million have high blood pressure. And as you can imagine that is a strain on the health services because we have a lot of communicable diseases. Now we have this problem that is growing, how to find medication controlling it but you also have to find resources for complications arising out of high blood pressure and it becomes a very big problem for us as a country," said Kayima.
The doctor says this is partly exacerbated by the highly stressful environments that people are living in. Other factors that could predispose someone to high blood pressure include having kidney disease, people born with narrowing blood vessels, and hormonal imbalances among others.
"If you're in a highly stressful environment work especially, you can get high blood pressure. Age, as we age there is a likelihood that you're going to get high blood pressure. In fact, we know that for people who are above the age of 50 about 55 per cent of them have high blood pressure. Those percentages are lower for those below the age of 50. So age is a clear risk factor for high blood pressure. Then there is a form of high blood pressure we call secondary hypertension which means that the doctors can actually find the cause in your body that is causing this high blood pressure. In most cases, you could be having a disease that is causing your blood pressure to be consistently elevated," he added.
He reveals that a big number of people admitted to the institute with a stroke report having no prior knowledge of hypertension, a reason they are encouraging individuals to routinely check for high blood pressure whenever they report to a health facility for whatever reason.
Figures shared by the institute are quite similar to the World Health Organization (WHO) data which shows that while hypertension remains a major cause of premature death worldwide, only less than half of adults living with the condition at 46 per cent are diagnosed and treated. Only 1 in 5 adults (21 per cent) with hypertension have it under control.
The figures also show an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30–79 years worldwide have hypertension, most (two-thirds) living in low- and middle-income countries like Uganda.
According to the World Health Organization, they have set a global target of reducing the prevalence of hypertension by 33 per cent between 2010 and 2030.