Seemingly healthy urban men in Kenya are facing a serious risk of heart disease and even death, top research institutions have warned.
Ten out of 100 seemingly healthy men on urban streets today are at risk of dropping dead from heart problems within 10 years.
Unsuspected by themselves, families or friends, researchers say these men are strong candidates for heartdisease in between five and 10 years.
Unrelated to the death of Gen Joseph Nkaiserry, the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in two separate studies say heart diseases are likely to to become an “epidemic”.
“Unless addressed urgently, this could cripple the already over-stretched health services,” warns the first study published last Tuesday by AKUH.
The study covering 528 healthy men and women in Nairobi, Kisii and Nakuru towns, found tell-tale signs of heart problems in 25 per cent of men.
Conducted by Geoffrey Omuse of AKUH, and others from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, University of Nairobi and Yamaguchi University, Japan, the results were published on Tuesday in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders.
The team assessed five risk factors considered tell-tale signs that one is headed for heart trouble.
The five, called metabolic risk factors or MetS, include a large waistline, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and levels of blood fat and sugar.
The team reports finding unhealthily big waistlines in 294, slightly more than 55 per cent, of study participants. Women were more likely than men to have bigger waistlines.
The commonest pointer to a heart problem in men was elevated blood pressure or hypertension, found in 55 per cent while 72 per cent of women had big waistlines.
Hypertension is directly related to a group of complications called cardiovascular diseases (CVD) such as heartattacks, strokes and heart failure.
Symptoms associated with high blood pressure include headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains, palpitations of the heart and nose bleeding.
After expert calculations, the researchers report 10 per cent of the men were likely to develop heart diseases in five to ten years.
The study suggests women are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease even when facing similar risks as men.
“This study highlights the fact that one can be physically healthy but have hidden indicators of heart problems,” cautions the study.
In the second study, the management of a company along Mombasa Road had called in experts to investigate the high turnout of employees at the in-house medical clinic.
Last Wednesday, researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology published their finding in the Pan African Medical Journal.
Led by Joseph Mwagi Onyango of JKUAT, the team was to investigate the matter with the workers and the magnitude of the problem.
The firm has 1,600 highly skilled employees with 370 of them participating in the study.
Half of the study participants were found at risk of developing high blood pressure, a condition called prehypertension. More than a third was already hypertensive.
More than 60 per cent of the study participants were either obese or overweight, factors that contributed to their hypertension status, says the study.
Possibility of having high blood pressure, both studies say, increases with age, obesity and overweight, family history and unhealthy diet.
Employees with poor health-seeking behaviour as well as those with problematic parental responsibilities had a high risk of high blood pressure.
“Workers with parenting issues were about two times more likely to have hypertension compared to those who did not have parenting problems,” says the Mombasa Road study.
Individuals who did not eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables in a day were at higher risk of hypertension.
Other factors that put the workers at risk of hypertension included little or no physical activities and making no effort to reduce fat in one’s diet.