NAIROBI, Kenya, July 31 – Medics have called for concerted efforts from the government and other operators in the health sector to contain rising cases of cardiovascular diseases in Kenya and the continent.
Speaking at the 5th annual cardiovascular summit in Nairobi, the medical experts from across Africa noted that non-communicable diseases like heart and cancer ailments were rapidly growing to pandemic levels, a situation that had caused concern across the continent.
“There is need for closer engagement with policy makers to chart a way of containing this situation as it threatens to get out of hand. Africa is the worst hit compared to her peers across the world,” Director, Pfizer East Africa and Nigeria Kodjo Soroh said.
Estimates show that around the world, at least 37 million people suffer from cardiovascular diseases annually. Out this, 17 million die, 80 percent of who come from developing countries.
The medics warned that the deaths could rise to 23.6 million by the year 2030 if no drastic measures to check the spread were put in place urgently.
The summit was organised by global pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer International and is aimed at bringing doctors from across the continent together to discuss emerging trends in the industry.
The medics attributed the sharp rise in cardiovascular disease to poor dietary habits, lack of access to medical facilities and a general bad trend in lifestyle, most associated with junk food, smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
“It is worrying that the lifestyles are changing for the worst. More and more people have taken up smoking; people do not have access to physical fitness facilities making current interventions inadequate. This is despite the fact that 80 percent of cardiovascular conditions are preventable,” Aga Khan Hospital’s Head of Cardiovascular Department, Harun Otieno, noted.
He said it was worrying that cardiovascular diseases were rising at a fast rate almost competing with communicable diseases like TB and Malaria.
“Developing countries like Kenya are bearing the brunt of this situation as there are not adequate facilities and specialists in this field. The cost of treating these conditions is also inhibitive,” he said.
He said it costs about Sh400,000 to perform a basic heart operation in Kenya. Any other complications, he said, drives the cost further up making it out of reach for many Kenyan households especially the low and middle income earners.
According to Ola Akinboboye, a heart specialist based in the United States, there is need for increased awareness on the dangers of various lifestyles and diets.
“The best intervention in taming this situation is for people to be trained and made aware of the repercussions of living dangerous lifestyles. People must be made to eat more natural foods and avoid junk, smoking and excessive alcohol,” he stated.
He noted that developed countries had embraced this awareness and the figures were going down drastically.
“We are seeing a decline in cases of cardiovascular diseases in Europe and United States and cardiovascular diseases are more prominent among the elderly,” Akinboboye said.
“In African countries more than half of cardiovascular diseases deaths occur among people between 30 and 69 years of age,” he added.