Hypertension, Diabetes; two chronic diseases claiming many lives
Decades ago, there was an erroneous belief that certain diseases like diabetes and hypertension were the birthright of the rich and influential in society.
That thought was influenced by the lifestyle of the affluent, especially their unhealthy diets.
Today, science and data has shown that everyone one; both poor and rich; young and adults, are vulnerable to the disease.
These two diseases have silently taken many people six feet down into the bowel of the earth.
Last year, Ghana recorded over 613,633 cases of hypertension at its various health facilities.
About 28 to 40 per cent of the adult Ghanaian population has hypertension.
Similarly over 200,000 cases of diabetes recorded in the year under review.
These two diseases are known as Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) which is also called chronic diseases.
According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), NCDs are responsible for over 71 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
In the few decades, NCDs have gained recognition in Ghana accounting for more than 43 per cent of all deaths in the country.
Ghana’s NCD’S recorded an estimated 94,000 death in 2016, with nearly half of persons living with NCDs being diagnosed late. Facility data indicates that these chronic diseases feature prominently in the top 10 causes of both mobility and mortality.
According to GHS, this could be attributed to multiple complex socioeconomic, demographic factors including the rise in risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use among others.
The Acting Programme Manager, Non Communicable Diseases, (NCD), DrEfuaCommeh said described hypertension as a persistently abnormal Blood Pressure (BP) of 140 over 90 and above.
She said people suffering from hypertension do not feel any symptoms making the diseases very dangerous.
When the blood pressure starts going up, normally it does not show any symptoms so the person does not feel sick, there is no headache or dizziness so by the time they start feeling it, their blood pressure is very high and is beginning to give them problems,” she said
According to her, when hypertension is not detected on time, one could suffer from stroke, heart attack or failure, weakness and narrowed blood vessels which could affect the eye, kidney and other vital organs in the body.
DrCommeh advised the public especially the youth to adopt a healthy life such as exercising, healthy food, among others.
“Junk foods, alcohol, tobacco, sugars, too much salt intake are the things that ultimately get deposited in the blood vessels and before you realize, the vessels are getting blocked and then blood pressure has started rising so we have to avoid these things,” she said
She said persons already diagnosed with the disease should ensure that they take their prescribed medicine regularly to control their BP and also consult their doctors if there are issues with their medicines.
She advised for frequent check-ups for early detection of the disease, “you do not need to wait until the problem has gotten out of hand but whiles you are well we advise that you keep on checking your blood pressure,”
With regards to diabetes, DrCommeh said when one has diabetes, the person either could not make enough insulin or could not use his or her own insulin.
She said there were three types of diabetes; type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
DrCommeh said type one diabetes had to do with lack of insulin production in children and type two, either the body does not make enough insulin or the body’s cells do not respond normally to the insulin and gestational diabetes often occurs during pregnancy.
Diabetes could cause blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.
She said diabetes, either one starts urinating a lot more than normal, especially at night, urinates a lot, very thirsty, dizziness, blurry vision among others.
She said seven to 10 per cent of the adult Ghanaian population has been found to have diabetes, adding that about 800 children were diagnosed with diabetes in three hospitals last year.
According to her diabetes known in the local parlance as ‘sugar disease’ people have the view that taking in only sugar or sweeteners could make one diabetic.
“The carbohydrates in your food can also turn into sugar, so from the kenkey, banku, rice to yam, whatever carbohydrates we are taking is converted to sugar in the body, “she said.
Dr Commeh said there was the need to cut down or reduce food that contained carbohydrates and replace it with more vegetables and fruits.
“We have to adopt the culture of including more fruits and vegetables in our meal plan, but as Ghanaians or Africans we lack this positive eating habit. Let us start to teach our children to eat right,” she said.
She said people who have been diagnosed as diabetic should have frequent checkups at least every year especially for an eye examination done, their feet for any sores and also take their medications.
She said a healthy diet and physical activity, control of sugar were key in managing diabetes, adding that alcohol and tobacco usage should be avoided.
Yaw Willington, a diabetic whose leg has been amputated told the Ghanaian Times that he was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 45.
“Well I sometimes I have body pains, but will just go the drug store for pain killers, I was drinking water a lot which made me urinate frequently. I thought it was normal until one day I decided to go the hospital, there through laboratory results I was told I had diabetes,”.
According to him, he was put on medication and diet plan, which he adhered to for some time but stopped after two years.
“The doctor advised me to control my blood sugar by avoid sugaring food, exercise and also visit the hospital for checkups but I failed,” he said.
Mr Willington said five years later, he had a sore on his left leg which treated it with local remedies but the wound kept on aggravating, “so I went to the hospital but it was too late so my leg was cut”.
He wished he had followed all the instructions given to him by the doctors after he was diagnosed with the disease and advised the public and those living with the disease to adhere to advice from doctors.
Ms Dora Sarfoa said she experienced gestational hypertension when she was pregnant but after delivery it went away.
According to her after three years of delivery, her blood pressure went up and was told she had hypertension, adding that through healthy eating habit and exercise, she had been able to control her BP.
“when I realized I had BP, I decided to eat right, more fruits and vegetables, I have cut down 50 per cent of my salt intake, I do moderate exercise, I take my recommended medicines, and I think this has really improve my heath conditions,” he said.
BY AGNES OPOKU SARPONG