Revealed: Africa’s silent health killers
Growing up in Nigeria, I knew nothing about hypertension (high blood pressure) until I was diagnosed with hypertension when I was already 45 years old, and living in the U.S. This diagnosis and subsequent treatments led me to undertake some research. To my surprise, I discovered that my situation was not an isolated one as many Africans and African descendants (worldwide) tend to have hypertension before or around their 35th birthday.
In other cases, there are those that have other co morbidity situations (alongside hypertension) even as early as their 30th birthday. Some of these co morbidity situations include overweight-obesity, diabetes, and other cardiovascular diseases; with obesity as the number one culprit.
Having any one of the above diseases increase anyone chances of hypertension two to three folds and can lead to other irreversible lifelong conditions like congestive heart failures, kidney diseases, blindness, dementia/Alzheimer, cardiovascular overload/attack/failures/stroke.
America and several western countries consider heart attack as the Number One silent killer with very little comprehension into hypertension’s correlation with heart attack until the very end (when people are already in crisis and with death already knocking on their doors).
The medical science data of heart attack concludes hypertension is a major precursor to heart attack, hence at the bottom of this deadly condition (heart attack) is a foundation built on a pattern of progressive hypertension.
Until western countries that invest and spend as much as they do on for example oncology (research, pharmaceuticals, prevention and treatment, advancement); the dent on heart attack is always going to be minimal at best because the root of heart attack ( probably hypertension) is not tackled head-on. The lack of investment can be directly related to western countries arrogance and ignorance, governance misinformation and misdirection; simply said by a good friend of mine, “hypertension is mostly a underdeveloped and developing country disease, we don’t get hypertension till our later days or FAT days.” Take a guess who my friend is? My dear friend forgot to consider one of the greatest food companies in the world emerged with the creation of McDonald’s ( by the West in the last 30-50 years) which in itself is a by-product of supply and demand due to overpopulation that now scientifically engineers 3 months old chickens and year old cows as deemed necessary for the butcher’s house.
Without taking into consideration the introduction of the above chicken and beef into our livestock has direct connection to obesity. In fact 30-40% of adult (age 20-60) in America are overweight-obese. Since obesity is a precursor for progressive hypertension and heart attack; neglecting how not to comprehend or mitigate obesity is technically a world health pandemic created by humanity.
Hypertension is defined as a condition in which the force of blood against the artery walls is too high, basically when the blood pressure (flow) inside your blood vessels, tissues or organs is greater than the blood pressure (flow) outside the blood vessels, tissues or organs. In other words, for the above to happen it means your blood vessels wall are compromised like an elastic band that has lost its elasticity (vessels then become saggy and flabby like saggy trouser) and now almost rendered useless (vessels can be leaky like water leaking from several holes in a Jerry-can full of water), the content that leaks out from inside the Jerry-can or blood vessels can be either good or bad inside our body.
The loss of elasticity inside blood vessels can be attributed to overuse, overwork, occlusion, obstruction, and maybe hereditary effects which are comparable to over washing and overuse of trousers/pants that eventually render the trousers/pants’ waist band useless and resulting in the trousers/pants falling off your waist unless you use belt support.
One major reason Africans or descendants of Africans are mostly associated with hypertension is predominately related to artery occlusion (arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis is when blood flow is compromise due to artery obstruction (semi of full) due to thickening inside or outside of blood vessels walls. Simply put, atherosclerosis is the hardening/trafficking/narrowing and thickening of the insides (sometimes outsides) of blood vessels, tissues and organ walls.
In other words, atherosclerosis is like driving in heavy traffic as is found in Lagos where you have heavy ‘stop and go, stop and go’ traffic with or without traffic lights control. All can agree that long traffic hours commuting are inefficient, time and energy draining worldwide. If the above arteriosclerosis traffic is not corrected in a timely manner, it could result in prolonged damages to other vessels, even as tissues and organs progress to abnormal and possibly irreversible conditions.
Another reason why blood pressure occasionally increases or decreases is due to blood viscosity/thinning from certain conditions that can either slow down or fasten blood flow such as sickle cell disease, hemophilia, e.t.c. A thick blood flow pattern (regularly contributed from the intake of fatty foods) slows and overworks the cardiac pump system thereby exerting more pressure inside blood vessel walls and weakening the artery walls over a period of time; unlike thin blood which does the opposite, both thin and thick blood signpost an imbalanced cardiovascular system that needs correction as soon as possible. If not corrected, fatality is imminent.
This article’s emphasis is to explore atherosclerosis specifically related to Africans and descendants of Africans, and expand ideas and solutions about the condition that will benefit current and future generations. I logically surmise that solving atherosclerosis by 1-2% annually-biannually going forward can do the following to Africans and African descendants: increased life span, better healthier living, less impotency and less mitigated chronic health conditions like glaucoma, blindness and dialysis, just to name a few.
As you can conclude from all the above we cannot fully comprehend hypertension without exploring atherosclerosis because atherosclerosis is a precursor to majority of our health challenges. After a certain age, adult metabolism slows down and more unhealthy habits (excess fat, caffeine and sugar consumption, less clean water daily intake and toxins e.t.c) accumulate in our body to enhance other abnormal conditions. It’s makes absolute sense to fully explore and comprehend atherosclerosis. One famous American slang is “bend don’t break”, but for this purpose blood vessels bends and eventually break, leading to deaths.
Atherosclerosis is also shrinking blood vessels circumference-diameter, which then weakens blood vessels, tissues or organs’ elasticity (recoil ability) to the point where the efficiency of blood flow in blood vessels is hampered and tissues or organs depreciate.
We can also consider the atherosclerotic process as similar to what happens to a brand new vehicle years down the road.
Scenario A: At the very beginning, your gas mileage on the brand new car is 30mph with zero to 60mph acceleration, 100-1000miles odometer and zero to none vibration on 0-10 vibration scale with acceleration.
Scenario B: with the same car after 10years (60,000-100,000 miles odometer) gas mileage now under 23-25mpg, acceleration also down 0-55mph, vibration now rate 3-5 on scale of 0-10 with acceleration.
Obviously, the same car has undergone stages of wear and tears (what we sometimes consider as endured wisdom).
From the above, an educated summation is that eventually, we all get atherosclerositized with age; the only questions are how long it took to get there and what happened in between.
One basic fact in life is that there are three points in a linear life, the beginning, the end and any point in-between. Life experiences tells us we have no control over the beginning – birth, barely have control at the end – certain death/last days, but we control majority of the in-between point (3/5yrs – and till death); which also define us as a person/people. Like the above car, with age comes less efficient metabolism hence like atherosclerosis, blood flow is compromised and hypertension could then move in to reap the benefit of the less efficient blood flow regime and heart attacks/failures is one of the end games if unchecked.
To conclude, atherosclerosis is symbiotic with aging and leads to hypertension and can then cause heart attacks/failures and other complications. Part 2 of this op-ed will place emphasis on why Africans and African descendants are more prone to have hypertension early/frequently, compared to people of other ethnic formations. Part 3 will tackle obesity’s contribution to the overall process while parts 4 and 5 will focus on solutions that are simple, reasonable, affordable and pragmatic.