Dr Kenneth Connell, Deputy Dean of Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of West Indies, has urged every Ghanaian home to have a blood pressure monitor to regularly check the state of health of all family members.
“So, when you decide to take the medication or not you can check your blood pressure to know how it is responding,” he said.
Dr Connell gave the advice during a public lecture and launch of the joint Medical Student Exchange Programme between University of Ghana and University of West Indies in Accra.
He said making blood pressure monitors available in every home was critical because the fact that 50 per cent of patients living with hypertension or high blood pressure were not aware of their status, was a failure of public health.
“It is also a failure of administrations to address a very present public health enemy, which is elevated blood pressure, claiming a lot of lives silently.
“To screen for colon cancer, you would have to get colonoscopy done, to screen for diabetes you need to have a blood test done but to screen for hypertension is just by putting a blood pressure carf on your hand, this is where we have failed as medical fraternity, and we need to address it,” Dr Connell added.
The lecture was on the theme “From Bridgetown to Accra – Hypertension as a Threat to the Diaspora: Lessons from COVID-19?”
The lecture set the scene of hypertension, or high blood pressure, as a consistent and escalating public health concern for people of African descent and unfolded under a lens of the post pandemic effect of COVID-19.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is when the pressure in your blood vessels is too high (140/90 mmHg or higher). It is common but can be serious if not treated.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Hypertension is estimated to affect 33 per cent of adults (1.3 billion) aged 30-79 worldwide with one in every three adults living with the condition.
It is, however, estimated that 46 per cent of people with hypertension are undiagnosed, 58 per cent of people with hypertension are untreated and only 21 per cent of people with the condition have it under control.
People with high blood pressure may not feel symptoms. The only way to know is to get the blood pressure checked.
Older age, genetics, overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, high-salt diet and too much alcohol intake are lifestyles that increase the risk of hypertension.
Very high blood pressure can cause headaches, blurred vision, chest pain and other symptoms.
Dr Connell said to explore indigenous measures to address the problem, there was the need for innovations to improve access to care, such as tele-health and remote blood pressure monitoring.
He stated that it was also important to leverage geopolitical power to ensure that evidence-based drugs were available to treat people living with high blood pressure.
Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, the Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana, speaking at the event, said the rise in non-communicable diseases was a worrying trend affecting most especially in low- and middle-income countries.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall prevalence of high blood pressure was relatively higher among non-Hispanic black adults compared to non-Hispanic white adults.
“As a university, which seeks to remain increasingly relevant in addressing national and global issues, platforms such as these are often created to throw spotlight on these health challenges and advocate for preventive remedial measures to curb such.
“This Lecture thus formed part of activities to mark the 75th anniversary of the University of Ghana and earlier co-hosted an inciteful public lecture with the Harvard University Center of African Studies on combating non-communicable diseases, Africa’s greatest challenge,” she added.
She said with the advent of COVID-19, the world’s attention largely drifted to infectious diseases with huge resources allocation at the detriment of non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension, hence the lecture to critically assess the health condition post COVID-19.