The epidemiology of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among black populations has been the subject of controversy. The definition of “blacks” in different societies varies. This has also become more inadequate as an inclusive category for the heterogeneous population groups in Africa. The designation in this discussion will apply to sub-Sahara countries for historical reasons. This will primarily be on the west coast Americans and Europe African Descendant.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a worldwide preventable disease, the primary cause of morbidity and mortality in developing countries. People of African and Afro Caribbean descent were reported to have high prevalence of stroke and end-stage renal breakdown. The prevalence of CVD is particularly high in urban areas, most especially in middle and the low income countries (British Medical Journal (BMJ), 2002).
Affluent countries were known to have the inflicting problem of non-communicable disease (NCD) (Musa & Musa, 2014). Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation (WHO 2012) pointed out the emerging evidence showing the effects of the problem in developing countries rather than developed ones. Sub-Sahara African countries are undergoing the epidemiology transition of non-communicable disease, the major causes of death as they experience decline in many infectious diseases.
According to Adedoyin (2005), globalisation, demography, dynamic changes, types of food and lifestyles are all responsible for the trend. In addition there is technology and its acceptance. The concerns of the World Health Organisation (WHO 1995) was coronary heart disease (CHD) which ranked as the major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with the estimation of 1998 having 78% of the burden of non-communicable disease (NCD) and 85% of CHD. This affliction was reported to originate from middle and low income countries. The tremendous socio-economic changes and rural to urban migrations experienced by the Nigerian population have contributed to the factors that are leading to its emergence in Nigeria.
What is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to all the diseases of circulation and the heart. These include cardiomyopathy, heart valve disease, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attacks, congenital heart disease and stroke (British Heart Foundation). CVD is a general term that describes a disease of the heart or blood vessels.
Blood flow to the heart, brain or body can be reduced as the result of a blood clot (thrombosis), or by a build-up of fatty deposits inside an artery which causes the artery to harden and narrow (atherosclerosis). Every year, 17.1 million lives are cut short as a result of tobacco consumption, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet (WHO, 2011). All these factors lead to CVD being the world’s biggest killer. It affects all ages and both genders. However, it is more noticeable in low and middle income countries. By the year 2030, according to the WHO (2011), it is estimated that 23.6 million people will perish as a result of CVD linked to mainly heart disease and stroke. Large numbers of people do not understand that 30 minutes of physical activity every day will lower their risk of developing heart disease; having a better diet/healthy foods will reduce their chances of heart attacks and stroke and maintaining a good weight gives them an additional day with a reduce risks.
The leading types of CVD, heart disease and stroke, are a result of blockage that averts proper blood flow around the heart or brain. The obstruction is usually caused by the build-up of fatty plaques, such as cholesterol, going through the inner walls of the arteries that lead to the heart or brain. This pathway or process of plaque build-up is called atherosclerosis. People who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnoea, sickle cell anaemia, elevated red blood cell count, migraines/headaches, and seizure disorder and/or have had a heart attack or stroke previously are at risk of having a stroke.
Earlier studies in Ghana revealed the alarming rate of hypertension in Nigeria, 10% higher as compared to Ghana having 4.5% among rural residents (Njelekela et. al., 2001). The situation was similar in Tanzania, both in rural and urban areas, with increasing incidence of hypertension among obsessed people. Diabetes mellitus prevalence was estimated at 1% in Sub-Saharan Africa (rural areas), 5% – 8% in urban areas and between 8% and 13% in Uganda and South African (Aspray et al., 2000).
Several lifestyle factors add to having stroke: unbalanced diet, alcohol consumption, not enough exercise and a family history of stroke. Hence, it is always advisable to watch your food consumption, exercise every day. If you have any family medical condition or medical history inform your doctor. Certain medications may cause blood clots or brain haemorrhage, which leads to a stroke. That is why it is vital to notify your doctor if you have taken or are currently taking birth control bills, blood thinners, illegal drugs or any hormones (Amons, 2011).
Heart disease constitutes a wide range of health conditions with regard to your heart. The body’s inflammatory process causes heart disease. Cholesterol, nicotine, LDL cholesterol and elevated levels of glucose are the main irritants that can cause inflammation in the heart’s blood vessels. Inflamed blood vessels form plaque, which in turn hardens and damages the blood vessels, causing blood flow disruption to and from the heart. Some factors that lead to heart disease include old age, a family history of heart disease, smoking, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, high stress and obesity (Mayo, 2011).
According to a study by WebMD (2012), African Americans are at 20 times greater risk of developing heart failure than whites. The four strongest predictors of this are high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), chronic kidney disease, overweight and cholesterol.
Be in Control of your Heart.
The following can improve your heart’s health and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Blood Pressure Control
Blood pressure is the force the blood exerts against the artery wall. A continuous increase in blood pressure signifies suffering from blood pressure, also known as hypertension. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack and stroke when compared to any other risk factor. Black Africans are more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to develop high blood pressure and to have the condition earlier in life. Take control of your blood pressure. Find out what your blood pressure number means for your health from your health provider. Always work with your health provider to lower your high blood pressure if you have high blood pressure.
Have a diet full of good cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance which is produced by the liver and is found in food. Every individual needs cholesterol in their body. However, too much of it causes build up in the arteries, thereby initiating heart disease. The different types of cholesterol are: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as good cholesterol – this protects you from heart disease – and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is bad cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease.
Quit smoking or do not smoke
Smoking accelerates the hardening and narrowing process in your arteries: it starts earlier and blood clots are two to four times more likely to develop than in non-smokers.Cardiovascular disease can take many forms depending on which blood vessels are involved, and all of them are more common in people who smoke. A fatal disease;Blood clots in the arteries of the heart and brain are the most common causes of sudden death.Coronary thrombosis: a blood clot in the arteries supplying the heart muscle, which can lead to a heart attack. Around 30 per cent are caused by smoking.Cerebral thrombosis: the vessels to the brain can become blocked, which can lead to collapse, stroke and paralysis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Cardiovascular Disease risk.
Research has shown that rheumatoid arthritis enhances the risk of CVD to a certain extent as in diabetes mellitus (Biomed Research International (BRI), 2014). Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory and destructive joint disease which is arguably a risk of atherosclerosis to a certain extent, as in diabetes. The contributing factor which enhances the risk of cardiovascular disease in RA sufferers is the genetic factor (Solomon et al., 2012).
Stress and cardiovascular disease
Although gross medical advancements have allowed the human population to live longer and fuller lives without the threat of death from infectious diseases, it is apparent that we are now dealing with a different phenomenon that may be just as harmful to our health. The impact of psychological, social and environmental factors in our daily lives is having a drastic effect on the mental and physical wellbeing of our society. It has been shown in various studies that psychological and neurological factors influence the immune system and can have an effect on our health (Breedlove, Rosenzweig & Watson, 2010). As we allow various stressors, poisonous substances, unhealthy diets and a lack of rest to overwhelm our existence, we are inevitably shortening our life span and killing our bodies.