Data Hub

Silent killer that fuels preventable heart conditions


High blood pressure accounts for a large number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths worldwide yet many people do not pay due attention to it.

Many remain ignorant about the condition but even those who know, few bother to regularly check the level of their blood pressure to prevent potential heart diseases and even death.

As the world marks Hypertension Day today, there is an opportunity to reflect on the severity of this condition.

This year’s theme is ‘Know Your Numbers’, which aims to increase high blood pressure awareness across the world.

Hypertension, a silent killer condition has been linked to heart diseases that killed more than 39,000 people between 2010 and 2017.

The 2018 Economic Survey ranks heart diseases among the top ten major causes of deaths in Kenya.

However, most Kenyans seem unaware of this deadly disease. The latest data by Ministry of Health shows that more than half or 56 per cent of Kenyans have never been tested for hypertension.

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).

The report indicated that young adults, age between 18-29 years are the most reluctant age group to be screened, with 62 per cent not having the test, while the age group 60-69 years has the highest percentage of being screened.In the gender front, women are more likely to address high blood pressure than men with at least 69 per cent of women having screened for hypertension while only 29 per cent has done so.

Even worse, among those who reported having been diagnosed with hypertension, only 22.3 per cent were currently on medication prescribed by a healthcare provider.

This calls into question whether Kenyans are aware of the ramification of hypertension.

Last year, the ministry launched a campaign, PimaPressure, throughout May. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of hypertension among Kenyans as part of ‘May Measurement Month’.

According to the World Health Organisation, mortality due to cardiovascular diseases ranges from 6.1 per cent to eight per cent while autopsy studies suggest that more than 13 per cent of deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases.

In 2012, the Ministry of Health reported 435,745 cases of hypertension. Nairobi and Kiambu counties had the highest prevalence with 126,754 cases. Garissa County had the lowest incidence.

Lifestyle and risk health factors lifestyle-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancers are increasing, posing a threat to the healthcare system in terms of diverting resources from basic health care services.

Nineteen Kenyans also face a number of risk factors to health, which include alcohol, tobacco use substance abuse, obesity and physical inactivity.      

In November 2016, the Ministry of Health stated that hypertension and diabetes remain one of the leading non-communicable diseases that account for 40 per cent of deaths in Kenya annually. The government and multinational drug manufacturers have come together to subsidise the price of insulin and provide training on diabetes care among health professionals.

The government has attempted to improve healthcare by supporting the expansion of voluntary health insurance to ensure that all Kenyans are able to access proper health care services.

The National Hospital Insurance Fund introduced a new package that will cover patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer.