Cardiologists in Nigeria have identified heart failure as a deadlier disease than the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and all forms of cancer except lung cancer.
The heart diseases experts made this known at a press conference held recently in Lagos supported by Novartis, which had consultant cardiologists drawn from federal universities across Nigeria, was aimed at sensitizing members of the public on the dangers of heart failure, correcting the misconception about it and providing experts’ advice on how to manage the health challenge.
Fielding questions from the newsmen, Dr. Ikechukwu Ogah, a Consultant Cardiologist University College Hospital, Ibadan, said 50 per cent of people living with heart failure don’t live more than five years before they die, noting that the commonest cause of heart failure is hypertension.
Speaking on the need for all stakeholders – government, pharmaceutical industries, the media etc- to play their roles effectively to reduce the spate of heart failure, the president of the Nigerian Cardiac Society, Prof. Amam Mbakwem, Consultant Cardiologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, said a lot can be done by governments at all levels to make medications for people living with heart failure more affordable.
Prof. Mbakwem called on the Federal Government to earmark more funds to the health sector in its annual budget, adding that there is need for the press to take the right information to the public sphere owing to the level of misinformation about heart failure among Nigerians.
She said, “A lot of our patients don’t understand what heart failure is. Some patients will tell you ‘’if my heart has failed how come I’m alive?”! So, they believe that once your heart fails, you must die. We need you to put the right information out there.
“But the government needs to help us, when we do our budget, go check the health budget. It’s not up to the 15% we signed on to at Addis Ababa.”
She added: “And then, the dollar to the naira exchange rate is going up. 50% can’t afford the care they need, what they do is buy affordable care. Affordable care may be one medication out of three I have written for them.
Everybody must come on board. Everybody needs to give up something even the pharmaceutical industries need to give up a bit of their profit.’’
However, Prof. Michael Balogun, Consultant Cardiologist, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital called on Nigerians to go for regular medical checkups as the first evidence that someone has been living with heart failure may be death.
Other experts advised patients to desist from eating too much at a time, take more vegetables, watch their salt intake and take enough rest.