I was at work in London, that afternoon, in 2009, when in between meetings, my phone buzzed and I picked it up to glance at it. The text was from my younger brother and it contained devastating news- one of my oldest friends, someone I had been at secondary school with, someone I had shared a room with in our first year at university was dead. He had been found slumped at his desk in his office in Lagos, an otherwise healthy husband and father, not yet forty.
In the dark days that followed, as I and his many friends struggled to make sense of the news, I sought to understand if he had suffered from high blood pressure or diabetes, if he had had anything that may have led to what I was convinced was a sudden cardiac death. There did not appear to be any conclusive evidence, and even the autopsy carried out later was said not to have found anything significant. This was not my first encounter with sudden unexplained death in Nigeria, many years before, a beloved uncle had collapsed on the lawn tennis court, just hours after I had last seen him. Again there was little information about the circumstances, but looking back I am inclined to believe that my friend and my uncle had both succumbed to cardiovascular disease. Although neither of them smoked or were overweight, and although both were fairly physically active; being African, they were at greater risk of cardiovascular disease- the diseases of the heart and circulation including coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack), heart failure, congenital heart disease and stroke.
Read more about it below:
EpiAFRIC and NOIPolls, we collected data from 1,000 Nigerians sampled in a way that reflects the population of the country. The objective of the poll was to estimate the exposure of a sample of Nigerians to known risk factors for CVD.
- Although 48% of respondents were aware of cardiovascular disease, only 23% were concerned personally about being at risk of CVD.
- Most respondents (67%) said that they had checked their blood pressure in the last 1 year and the vast majority of them (82%) reported that the result had been normal. Of those that checked, six percent reported a high blood pressure level in the last year.
- Almost half of all respondents (48%) self-reported as either overweight or obese.
- Seven percent of respondents reported that they smoke; more men (10%) than women (4%). The North East region had the highest proportion of self-reported smokers (11%) as well as the highest average number of cigarettes per day (18). Young people between 18-21 years had the highest proportion of smokers (21%).
- Of all the respondents, 56% reported that they had undertaken planned physical exercise in the last week. Of those that did report exercise, 54% did less than 1 hour of planned exercise. This is less than the 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In summary, 87% of respondents had either not exercised enough or had not exercised at all in the week preceding the poll.
What it means for you!
Our poll suggests that we have to be more aware of the life style choices that we make which increase our risk for cardiovascular disease. These findings suggest that a high proportion of Nigerians are overweight and we do not exercise enough. While the poll may suggest relatively low levels of smoking, given the contribution of smoking as a risk factor for CVD and cancer, quitting has to remain a priority. Regularly checking your blood pressure to identify and treat hypertension is critical in reducing the risks of CVD. In designing programmes to tackle these issues, targeting groups with higher risk, such as men and people in the North East when addressing smoking, should be considered.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead