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Experts warn heart diseases turning into pandemic

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 30 – Medical experts have warned that the rising cases of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in Kenya and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa are fast developing into a pandemic and drastic measures need to be taken to contain the situation.

Statistics show 82 percent of CVD deaths occurring in low and middle income countries, with conditions worsened by high levels of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Addressing the growing problem, a number of cardiologists from East African region met at the 4th Annual Cardiovascular Summit in Nairobi on Saturday, to assess the prevalence of CVDs in the region.

Speaking during the meeting, Summit Chair and Cardiologist Dr David Silverstein said CVD incidences in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa are being heightened by changes in lifestyle and stress.

“Psychosocial stresses and changing our lives, as Kenya is becoming more stressful around our population as we become more westernized, we have more worries. The only exercise we see people doing is walking to their car and from their car,” he said.

Modifiable risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension and alcohol intake, Dr Silverstein added, are proving to play a major role in causing most CVD cases in the continent as well.

“The same risk factors that we had in America, are now affecting us here in Africa. The only difference in Africa and other third world countries, the disease is coming at a much younger age than it is in the West now,” he said.

With limited resources, he added, African countries face challenges in mitigating further damage by the chronic disease.

In the same vein, Diabetes is adversely affecting Kenyans with prevalence at 7.2 percent, which Diabetes Kenya National Chairperson Dr Kirtida Acharya, said is potentially higher as data is still being collected.

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“We feel there is a higher number especially in certain geographical hotpots and ethnic groups there is more diabetes. In some areas we picked up 11 percent which is as high as HIV/AIDS,” she said.

Dr Acharya said that though she is seeing younger diabetic patients, the disease is present in all socio-economic parts of Kenya.

Moving forward, she said, in order to mitigate further damage of the disease, prevention is necessary with the country’s economic status and collision with other communicable diseases like HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

“The diabetes tsunami has already approached us. We are competing with HIV, TB and Malaria, which are more dramatic in terms of mortality. We are also seeing an overlap between the HIV cases and people getting hyperglycemia. We need to get the message out there to people about changing their lifestyles and going for screening tests.”

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