According to Kenya’s Second National Health Sector Strategic Plan, over 6% of deaths in the country are linked to cardiovascular diseases, while further studies suggest that more than 13% of deaths among adults could be linked to such diseases. In the 2017 Economic Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, heart disease is among the top ten registered causes of death, with more than 25,000 deaths attributed to cardiovascular diseases from 2012 to 2016.

In the latest data from the Ministry of Health in the Kenya STEPwise Survey for Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factors, Kenya disease epidemic is experiencing transition from infectious to non-communicable conditions resulting in more burden of disease and even doubling. Non- communicable diseases are a major public health concern with significant economic implications in terms of lost productivity and premature death. Non-communicable diseases contribute to over 40% of inpatient admissions and 30% of Hospital deaths causing overwhelming financial burden and pushing individuals, households and communities into the edge of poverty as well as slowing down economic progress of the nation. This data was obtained from a survey of 6,000 individuals, factoring in national estimates by sex (male and female) and residence (urban and rural areas).

But what is hypertension really? It’s otherwise known as high blood pressure in layman’s definition, it is too much force exerted against the walls of the blood vessels by the blood flowing through them thus straining them. It forces your heart to work extra hard, weakening it and also weakening the walls of your arteries. This is compounded when fats from the diet enter your bloodstream and deposited in the arteries making them narrower at the same time hardening them; restricting blood flow. This comes with its own set of complications and puts you in danger of a stroke if your brain is starved of oxygen and nutrients.

Survey by Second National Health Sector Strategic Plan, notes that while the prevalence of hypertension has increased over the last 20 years; only 4% of Kenyans diagnosed with hypertension are receiving effective treatment. Health Director of Medical Services Dr Jackson Kioko stated that the government is working with various health bodies to ensure that screening of blood pressure and diabetes is done at primary health care service providers (health centers). This will help in early detection of hypertension in patients’ hence effective management method to help reduce deaths caused by high blood pressure.

Risk factors associated with onset of hypertension are classified into four. According to World Health Organization (WHO) the four major risk factors are;

  • Behavioral risk factors.

The behavioral risk factors associated with the development of hypertension includes; unhealthy diet, tobacco use, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.

Heavy drinkers who cut back to moderate drinking can lower their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 2 to 4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) by 1 to 2 mm Hg.

  • Metabolic factors.

The metabolic risk factors such as High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and raised blood lipids. Kenya Has experience a drastic increase in obesity, a condition often linked with hypertension and attributed to the same risk factors of sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary choices.

  • Social determinants.

Social determinants include; globalization, urbanization, ageing, education and housing.

  • Cardiovascular diseases.

Cardiovascular diseases that are directly related to hypertension are heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure and kidney diseases.

While most hypertensive people have no symptoms at all it is important for everybody to know their blood pressure readings and watch out for symptoms associated with high blood pressure such as; headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains, palpitations of the heart and nose bleeding.