Main Mall, Gaborone, was pumping on Saturday when the Heart Foundation of Botswana launched its World Hypertension Day. Worldwide, the actual day falls on 17 May, but due to some key people being unavailable on that day, it was held on 24 May 2008.
The day started off with speeches from Mr. Setshwano Mokgweetsinyana, Acting Director of the Department of Public Health, who pledged support for initiatives that educate people on heart disease and, in particular, hypertension.
He revealed, to a surprised audience, that over 1,8 billion people suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), which is an epidemic worldwide requiring far more attention than it is currently being given.
More importantly, just like HIV/Aids, the effects of heart disease socio-economically due to disability, chronic illness and even death is enormous. One can only imagine how it not only affects families, but production in companies and increased turnover in staff that could have long-term effects on Botswana’s economy as a whole. He called for all who were there to be tested and spread the word on the seriousness of heart disease. With the theme this year being ‘measure your blood pressure at home’ all were encouraged to buy blood pressure machines to be able to do so regularly for their whole family. Dr. Kaluwa, a representative from the World Health Organisation, said that deaths caused by cardiovascular disease was expected to rise from 17.1 million (2004) to more than 23 million in 2030, whilst HIV/Aids mortalities were estimated to drop substantially from 2.2 million to 1.2 million in 2030. He stated that hypertension was a preventable disease yet still so many are dying from it due to not being tested regularly and leading poor lifestyles. People were encouraged to exercise, maintain an ideal body weight and eat more natural foods.
Prof Bhagat, Director of the Cardiac Clinic, emphasized once again that heart disease and stroke are the world’s no.1 killers and, therefore, hypertension should not be taken likely. Bhagat said the fact that hypertension is a ‘silent killer’ also requires people to get tested even though they do not have any symptoms as it could be damaging their bodies without them even knowing it.
Testing then began with various interjections informing people why testing was important, for instance, when people were having their waist circumference measured, Bhagat said: “A woman should not have a waist circumference of more than 80cm, and a man no more than 90cm, in order to decrease their chances of getting sugar diabetes.”
Many, it seems, were sadly well over that with 51% of the women measured being over 80cm and 28% of men being over 90cm.
Over 200 people were tested for Blood Pressure and Sugar and lifestyle issues were also addressed in terms of Body Mass Index, waist circumference, and counseling when required on changing poor habits.
Of those tested, 33% of the women and 55% of the men had high blood pressure which should normally be 120/80. The highest blood pressure on the day was 205/125!
Sugar testing was also done and, although a normal sugar level should be below 5, 58% of the women and 44% of the men were over that, reflecting a high potential in some of them of developing sugar diabetes or already having sugar diabetes.
One Motswana lady in her 80s was measured so high (close to 300/140) on the day that they sent her to Princess Marina immediately from the testing. On admission, her BP was 254/120 and after three days in the hospital she left with a BP of 164/104.
The doctor said that she and her elderly husband, when visiting the Cardiac Clinic as first time patients to see the dietician, specifically asked to thank us personally. She has now been diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Hers is a story we see only too often at the clinic, if she had had her BP checked annually she may never be sitting in her old age with diabetes and hypertension. Even if this is the only family we have managed to convince due to our efforts on the day then it was definitely a worthwhile day!
“A very big thank you to all the sponsors, without whose help the day would not have been as successful: Global Holdings, Spar/Sally Dairy, Creations for Africa, Pick n pay Molapo, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, Medswana (BP Machines), UB for the nurses and the PA System, Cardiac Clinic, Madhavi Sharma (lifestyle counsellor), Diagnofirm Laboratories, Pula Sales (Nestle), Mr Veg and, of course, to all the members of the public that came to be tested.
For more information on the Heart Foundation’s educational campaign, contact Ruth van der Merwe.