Malawi Broadcasting Corporation
Local

POOR HEALTHCARE-SEEKING BEHAVIOR CONTRIBUTES TO INCREASED CASES OF HYPERTENSION

Donald Kaputo (not real name) works in the accounts department. He is in his early 40s. Before 5 October 2023, high blood pressure or hypertension was a disease he thought was associated with old age or too much body weight.

At 75 kilogrammes Kaputo considered himself not at risk. He used to eat whatever he wanted. Consuming alcohol was on top of his daily activities after work. “I don’t like taking beers, I prefer spirits,” Kaputo would boast.

Because of his drinking habits, his sleeping pattern was irregular. He normally went to. bed after midnight every day.

Kaputo did not like going to the hospital for checkups.  This went on until one morning in October this year when he woke up with a very bad headache. He dismissed it as one of those headaches he had been experiencing lately.
“These headaches would come and go after taking a painkiller, ” said Kaputo.

He went to the office and started experiencing some numbness in his fingers.

“I took a lot of water as I usually did after a night out hoping to chase away hangovers,  but the headaches persisted, ” Kaputo explained.

He continued experiencing strange things like sweating at 11 am, Kaputo collapsed having experienced some dizziness. He was rushed to the hospital and continued having seizures on the way.

At the hospital, his blood pressure was recorded at 219 over 118 a reading medically described as hypertensive crisis.

Kaputo was among more than 700 million people with untreated hypertension.  This is according to the World Health Organization 2021 report which further says the number of people living with hypertension has doubled to 1.28 billion since 1990.

Gerald Phiri,  a medical practitioner, says poor health behaviours are a major contributing factor to the increase in the number of hypertensive patients.

“Poor eating habits, lack of exercise as well as poor health care-seeking behaviors are all reasons why we see many people being diagnosed with high blood pressure while young,” said Phiri.

He said according to the first comprehensive global analysis of trends in hypertension prevalence, detection, treatment and control the number of adults aged 30–79 years with hypertension has increased from 650 million to 1.28 billion in the last thirty years.

Phiri agreed with a report by the Imperial College London and WHO which was published in The Lancet in 2021 that many people do not know that they are hypertensive.

He urged people to develop a tendency to go to the hospital for regular check ups saying hypertension is a condition that can be controlled and managed if detected early.

“Eat healthy, exercise regularly and go to the hospital frequently, ” advises  Phiri.

In Malawi, hypertension is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality amongst all four non-communicable diseases with its prevalence ranging between 15.8 to 32.9% as per a systematic review of Hypertension and Diabetes burden, risk factors, and interventions for prevention and control in Malawi (5–7).

The review says hypertension significantly increases the risk of heart, brain and kidney diseases, adding that it is one of the top causes of death and diseases throughout the world.

It says hypertension can be easily detected by measuring blood pressure, at home or in a health centre, and can often be treated effectively with medications that are low cost.

Reported by Henry Haukeya.

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