The President, Nigerian Cardiac Society, Dr. Okechukwu Ogah, says about 15 to 20 per cent of heart disease cases in Nigeria are a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices.
He said this on Tuesday in Abuja, at a media conference held ahead of the society’s 51st Annual General and Scientific Conference.
The conference has “Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases to Surgical Care: Progress, Gaps and Prospects” as its theme.
According to Ogah, excessive intake of alcohol can cause damage to the heart and liver, which will then result in one heart disease or the other.
He also identified high blood pressure, rheumatic heart disease, heart muscle disease which develops after a woman had become pregnant, and coronary artery disease as some of the heart-related diseases.
“Now, in Nigeria, we know that for the adult population, 33 per cent of them have high blood pressure and this is one of the causes of heart disease in the country and this is just the average.”
Ogah said that many people with high blood pressure were not aware that they have the disease and so were not even treating it, a situation which could lead to cardiac arrest or even death.
He also said that living in poor housing conditions with no windows or overcrowded rooms could lead to infections that if not properly treated could degenerate into heart disease later in life.
According to him, coronary heart disease is becoming rampant in Nigeria and killing a lot of people in their prime.
“Obesity, and high blood pressure is becoming more common, there is diabetes, and our cholesterol level is very abnormal.
“People are not eating right anymore and lifestyle is changing from our old system to the system abroad and people are having coronary heart diseases.
“Poverty can also cause cardiovascular disease and there are many ways it can affect you, if you live in a poor environment or a place that is overcrowded, you are at risk of developing one cardiovascular disease.
“That is where you have a lot of tuberculosis and if it affects the lungs, it can also destroy the covering of the heart.
“Also poor people will not have money to eat good food but will depend on foods that are not good for the body and will not even be able to buy drugs.”
He added that people who snore while sleeping are also at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Ogah said that preventing and reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease depended solely on lowering blood pressure and diagnosing and treating hypertension.
He also urged Nigerians to avoid cigarette smoking, maintain a lean weight, diet and exercise.
“Also check the cholesterol level, treat diabetes, and then try to manage stress.
“So in general, preventing heart disease requires identifying and modifying the risk factors.
“Another thing is to get regular checkups so that if you have any symptoms, you can diagnose the condition early and ensure you are treated.”
He, however, said that symptoms to watch out for were breathlessness, unusual awareness of heartbeat (palpitations), chest pain, and difficulty in doing certain things.
The cardiologist said that with the increasing number of cardiovascular disease cases in Nigeria, the ratio of one cardiologist to 10,000 patients is insufficient.
According to Ogah, the situation may get worse with the migration of health workers from the country.
The conference which began on Tuesday is expected to end on Friday.