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Experts canvass national salt-reduction policy

By Wole Oyebade
21 May 2015   |   12:33 am
As the world commemorates World Hypertension Day 2015, stakeholders have called for a national salt-reduction policy to check the growing epidemic in the country.
Salt. Photo: q13fox

Salt. Photo: q13fox

As the world commemorates World Hypertension Day 2015, stakeholders have called for a national salt-reduction policy to check the growing epidemic in the country.

The experts, who expressed concern on alarming rate of the disease among Nigerian adults, said Nigeria needed aggressive preventive health policies to check things like salt, which had been implicated as a leading risk factor in the development of hypertension among blacks.

Country Manager for Omron Healthcare in Nigeria, Abiodun Olugbenga, observed that there were scientific evidences testifying that blacks accumulate salts and retain them in the system more than any other race.

Besides, some of the most effective hypertensive drugs in black people, Olugbenga said, were those that eliminate salt in the system and helps to reduce the blood pressure.

“Therefore, it is a proven fact that salt is a big player in the development of hypertension in black people. The problem is that our diet are those that are also very rich in salt, which is why we have a lot of people that are hypertensive,” he said.

Statistics have it that hypertension, otherwise called high or elevated blood pressure, is the third leading cause of death globally. World Health Organisation (WHO) named hypertension as the number one killer disease because it accounts for 20 per cent of all deaths in men and 24 per cent of all deaths in women; 62 per cent of strokes and 49 per cent of coronary heart disease.

Notwithstanding the paucity of data in Nigeria, no fewer than 27 million Nigerian adults above 25 years are hypertensive. Majority of these population often do not know until it is out of control.

Given this alarming proportion, Olugbenga said there was the need for concert effort, involving the right policies, effective implementation by regulatory agencies and improved national awareness.

His words: “We actually need to start with a technical working group of key stakeholders coming together to design policies to guide the food and nutrition industry on the benchmark for salt use.

“We need to first know how much of salt is consumed by an individual, perhaps what the safe level should be and what percentage should be targeted and how we can go about achieving it.

“It should also guide our salt intake at home. These days, people would quit salt intake after they have become hypertensive. But we should start reducing it now, so as not to get to the level of hypertension, where we are forced to avoid salt entirely. That is the orientation we need, to ensure salt reduction and hypertension before it consumes all of us and our productive population,” he said.

Associate Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr. Amam Mbakwem, added diet adjustment would reduce blood pressure significantly.

And even for some people, whose blood pressure aren’t that high can moderate their blood pressure by taking extra care of what they eat, Mbakwe said.

Continuing, “Things like salt, we need to cut down the level. Not the raw salt though. Maggi is salt. Knorr is salt. Royco is salt. We want people to reduce the amount of carbohydrate they take and eat a lot more vegetables and fruit.”

She advised the public to embrace other healthy habits like regular exercise to manage obesity, which is another risk factor for hypertension.

The expert warned that hypertension does not have any sign or symptom, but when it does, it is often disastrous.

“Few people may have headache, but most people do not know they are hypertensive. It is either somebody checks your blood pressure and it is there or an organ has been damaged before it is discovered. That is why we worry about it. It is not just about the numbers, but the damage high blood pressure causes.