Medical experts at a forum in Accra have disclosed that mental illness, cancer and hypertension are the leading non-communicable diseases that are taking lives rapidly in the country as a result of the negative lifestyles that people adopt.
The forum, organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, was under the theme, ‘Established and emerging non-communicable diseases’.
Rector of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule who spoke on hypertension said it was a deadly and silent killer that in most cases was detected when health complications arose.
“It is the epidemic of today, and is one of the diseases driving people to death in the country,” he added.
He explained that hypertension occurs when the heart pumps blood at a higher rate than normal, or when the heart constantly overexerts itself.
Prof Plange-Rhule noted that in Africa its prevalence was found from age 20 and above and can be developed through genetics, ethnicity or age, adding that it was also most common in people of African descent.
He advised that a change in health diet and engaging in less rigorous activities, avoidance of alcohol and substance abuse could reduce the chance of getting hypertension.
Professor Joe-Nat Clegg Lamptey, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Ghana, Legon, speaking on cancer noted that cancer occurs when normal cells become abnormal and most often they begin to multiply and occasionally attack organs in the body.
“Cancerous cells can be hereditary, while others are as a result of unhealthy diets and the nearness to or intake of harmful substances,” he added.
He stated that cancer could present itself in two forms, either locally or systemically. With locally, symptoms include swelling, pain, loss of function and bleeding while systemic symptoms include weight loss, loss of energy, organ failure, and eventually death.
He urged that a healthy diet and lots of exercise could reduce the chances of developing cancer as the treatments were expensive with some going as far as Gh¢100,000.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mental Health Authority Dr Akwasi Osei, who spoke on mental illness, reiterated the need for better living practices which were often a cause of mental illness.
Mental illness, he said, claims between 18 and 20 years of a patient’s life, as such it is important to show sympathy and affection to those suffering from mental illness, as showing negativity to them may cause further health problems.
He noted that “mental health problems come in various forms such as Psychosis being major mental illness and anxieties being the minor and some conditions that may develop from mental illness include schizophrenia, depression, substance abuse and suicide”.
Dr Osei along with the other speakers urged for a deeper understanding on all non-communicable diseases and urged that the NHIS scheme should cover more of these diseases.
BY FREDERICK GADESE-MENSAH AND ESSANDOH YUNUSAH