Medics have called for concerted efforts from the health sector and the government in containing rising cases of cardiovascular diseases in Kenya and the continent.
The medical experts drawn from across Africa converged for the 5th Annual Cardiovascular Summit at a Nairobi hotel and declared that non-communicable diseases related to the heart and cancer were rising to pandemic levels, a situation that was causing concern across the continent.
Statistics from the summit indicated that an average of 37 million people suffer from cardiovascular diseases annually.
Out this number, 17 million die, 80 per cent of who come from developing countries mostly in Africa. Medics warn that the deaths could rise to 23.6 million by the year 2030 if no drastic measures to check the spread are put in place urgently.
The summit is organized by global pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer International and is aimed at bringing doctors from across the continent together to discuss emerging trends in the industry.
“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,” said Pfizer Medical Director, Pfizer Nigeria and East Africa region Dr Kodjo Soroh.
The medics attributed the sharp rise in cardiovascular disease currently standing at 24 per cent across the country 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 per cent of cardiovascular conditions are preventable,” said Dr. Harun Otieno of the Head of Cardiovascular Department at Aga Kahn University Hospital while giving a Kenya perspective of the situation.
He said there was a worrying trend where cardiovascular diseases were rising so fast almost competing 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,” said Dr. Otieno.
It takes an average of 5,000 dollars to perform a basic heart operation in Kenya. Any other complications drive the cost even further out of reach for many Kenyan households especially the low and middle income cadre.
According to Dr. Ola Akinboboye, a heart specialist based in the USA, while giving an assessment of patients with ischemic heart diseases, there is need for increased awareness among the people 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 partake more natural foods and avoid junk, smoking and excessive alcohol,” said Dr. Akinboboye.
He said 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 but a rise in such cases in the developing world caused primarily by change in lifestyle. In developing countries the cases are widespread as opposed to the west where cardiovascular diseases are more prominent among the elderly,” said Dr Akinboboye.
According to the summit, in African countries more than half of cardiovascular diseases deaths occur among people between 30 and 69 years of age, an age 10 years or more below the equivalent group in Europe and North America.
Other speakers at the summit included Dr. Jonathan Wala, Dr. Charles Kariuki of Nairobi Hospital among others.