Tuesday, 8 October 2013


While we are busy focused on fighting deadly diseases like HIV and cancer all over the world, and have almost won the war against certain infectious diseases with the use of vaccines, we should also have in mind that there are even deadlier and very silent ones that are gaining momentum by the day. Of these, the ones I'd like to talk about are hypertension and diabetes mellitus. It might be shocking to you that a lot of people are quite ignorant about these diseases, their cause, course, treatment, complications and prognosis. It might also shock you to know that just a few years back, people in Nigeria thought that HIV was a disease of the white people. You see, the typical African or let me say specifically Nigerian man thinks that if he's ignorant of something then it can't hurt him. There is even a saying to that effect; "Wetin you nor know, nor go kill you". I guess they found out the hard way that they were wrong. Ignorance is no protection.

I'm not going to go into a lecture on the causes, or how it can be managed, that's why we have the internet. Wikipedia and PubMed, I'm sure would be able to help. I'm here to remind us and just to shed a little more light on them especially their complications very briefly. During my last visit to Abuja, a conversation ensued in the bus between two men initially, then we all got involved. It started with the hospital visit of a particular ruler of a Northern Nigerian kingdom where he was given a list of foods to abstain from. After going through the list, he decided that it was better for him (the ruler) to die with food in his mouth than from starvation. My point, people do not see the need for regular health check-ups and worse, a need to adhere to the doctor's advice.

Countless times, I have had to make the diagnosis and break the news to the patient of their new state of health. The replies I get are often "I nor dey think too much" meaning "I don't think a lot" in the case of hypertensives or "I nor dey chop sugar oh" meaning "I don't take lots of sugary stuff" in the case of diabetics. While they may be close to the answer as per the causes of these diseases, they are yet to understand its complete implications.

Nobody wants to take any forms of medicine including me, not to mention taking it everyday for the rest of their lives. It can be very overwhelming to think about. However, something I always do while breaking the bad news and giving a lecture on the need to adhere to their treatment, is to let them know that some people have it worse, and I go ahead to tell the implications of not taking their prescribed medications and coming for regular check-ups. "Imagine this for example, I'd say, taking 2-4 tablets everyday for a whole years would probably not get up to N 50000 and you be relatively healthy and safe; but refusing and living in denial would definitely lead to complications ranging from a heart disease to stroke all of which are expensive and difficult to manage". Most of the time it works for me and it is actually the truth. Believe me nobody wants to die unless they are suicidal. I do this (my type of counselling) because of what I see everyday, just yesterday two women were rushed into the emergency room, both convulsing and both of them hypertensives with non-adherence. Sometimes you may need to instill some degree of fear to get results.

Once upon a time, we have fallen ill maybe malaria or something else and I'm guessing we didn't find it funny having to take medicines even for a little while. Now imagine or parents, friends and relatives living with incurable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Diseases that when paid no attention can only get worse. And then having to take medicines for life! *phew!* However, my candid advice; if you are 40+, try to go for regular blood pressure or blood sugar testing at least once - twice a year. If you've been diagnosed, it truly is not the end of the world, adhere to medications, diet, exercise and your doctor's advice and if you've not been diagnosed or are below 40 years, go for prevention. Note that hypertension and diabetes can occur are any age (type I and type II). 


  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Renal (Kidney) failure
  • Heart Failure
  • Retinopathies (eye problems)
  • Neuropathy (problem with the nerves)
  • Foot Ulcers
  • Stroke

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting.