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Johnson: Prevent heart diseases with lifestyle moderation


Heart-diseasesDr. Adeyemi Johnson is the CEO of First Cardiology Consultants Clinic Ikoyi, Lagos, which is organising a medical outreach to mark 2016 World Heart Day. In this interview with Paul Adunwoke, he spoke on preventions, treatments and managements of heart related diseases.

What should people know about heart diseases?
Every September 29 is World Heart Day and we decided to give out some information about the heart and how to prevent heart diseases. Unfortunately in Nigeria, there are lots of heart diseases and incidents of heart diseases are increasing daily. This is probably due to a combination of many factors, including, excess stress, lack of exercise and poor diet. What do I mean by poor diet?

We eat too much salt in Nigeria, as well as, a lot of fried foods and fast foods because we are copying Western lifestyle. We no longer cook fresh foods, forgetting that those fast foods are loaded with salt and not good for heart. Majority of heart diseases, including stroke, can be prevented with lifestyle moderations and regular medical check ups.

What are the signs of heart disease?
These are many and they include; hypertension, diabetes and chest pains, among others. Hypertension is very common in Nigeria; indeed, it is very common in black people. It is very difficult to treat hypertension in black people than in white people. Incidents of high blood pressure are very high in Nigeria because of our diet. The average Western diet contains six grams of sodium, while that of Nigeria contains 12 grams of sodium, which means we eat a lot of salt. It comes from foods such as potato chips, noodles and cashew nuts, among others.

Hypertension is known as a silent killer. We also have stroke, which is a result of uncontrolled hypertension or diabetes. Many of these diseases do not have symptoms. Incidents of stroke are also very high in Nigeria. We have started having heart attacks. When I was in medical school many years ago, through out my five years of medical school, we had only one heart attack patient and he was from the U.S.

Today, however, we see many heart attack cases in Nigeria because of change in lifestyle. We have adopted all the bad Western lifestyles. We have stopped exercising, we eat fatty foods, we don’t go to doctors and we do not take our drugs. Heart attack is described as pressure squeezing sensation in the heart. There is also heart failure, which occurs when the heart becomes very weak and is not able to properly carry out its functions. The major cause of heart failure in Nigeria is hypertension, while diabetes is the major cause of heart attacks and stroke.

When someone is diagnosed of stroke, he/she passes on, becomes blind, has chest pains or has been paralysed; all these are common signs of heart attack. Sometimes the chest pain is felt in one arm, the chest and sometimes, it is felt in both arms.

When one is diagnosed of chest pains at the age of 40 and above, it should be taken seriously, because he/she is at the risk of having other heart diseases. When someone’s heart is not functioning properly or you discover you cannot sleep properly or you have swollen legs, all these are signs of heart failure.

From what age should one be concerned with the heart?
Heart diseases can occur at any age. Children and adults can have heart diseases. But usually, from the age of 40, one is at the risk of having heart diseases. For men, I would like to advise them to check their blood pressure from the age of 30 at least once in a year. All heart diseases are mostly preventable, either with moderate lifestyle or medication. Even congenital heart diseases can be treated here in Nigeria.

What heart diseases are prevalent?
The common cardiovascular diseases include heart attack, heart failure, hypertension and diabetes, among others. Structural heart disease is when there is damage in the valve, as a result of complications there. This affects both children and adults. For instance, when a child has fever and the valve is not functioning properly, this is one of the signs of structural heart disease.

However, there is good news. For the past two decades, we could not treat lots of heart diseases in Nigeria, but now, most heart diseases can be treated here. Over 15 years ago, we used to send 50 percent of our patients abroad for heart surgery, but presently, most of the heart surgery and heart interventions can be done here in Nigeria, and they are high quality. So, I would advise there is no need of travelling abroad. It is better to treat patients here in Nigeria.

What foods and lifestyle are good for the heart?
It is important to reduce the amount of salt consumed. Fatty foods are not good for the heart, and these include red meat and fried foods. They taste delicious, but are not good for the heart. Eat less of red meat and fried foods. Eat more of fishes or chicken without the skin, which are good for the heart. Also eat lots of vegetables and fruits.

Coffees have been researched over and again and the findings suggest that it is healthy for the body. So, moderate consumption of coffee is good for the heart. However, for the few people with fast heartbeat, coffee is not good for them.

Smoking is not good for the heart, though Nigeria is not known as a big smoking country, but those who smoke should stop. Moderation in alcoholic intake is also good for heart. Now, what does moderation mean? It means one glass of wine a day maximum for women, and two glasses a day maximum for men. It shouldn’t be more than a bottle of beer daily, as more than that would damage the heart.

There are people, who because of their health condition cannot take alcohol, but they are few.

Exercise is very important. So, individuals should treck at least 30 minutes daily, it is good for the heart.
It also goes a long way in reducing the risk of having high blood pressure and chances of having diabetes and heart attacks. If you have stairs in your house, there is no need of using the lift; just walk up the staircase, as it would help your heart.
What is your advice for all?

Majority of cardiovascular diseases today are preventable and affordable. It is cheaper to prevent it than wait for heart attacks. Visit your doctor regularly for medical check ups; it is good for your health. We have ability to treat heart attacks, as well as close holes in the hearts.

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