How bad habits, careless eating are taking a toll on city’s rich

Nairobi residents go about their businesses in the city.
A high end city hospital has raised alarm over rising rates of high blood pressure or hypertension among the well-to-do residents of Nairobi.

One out of three clients visiting Karen Hospital’s 12 clinics is hypertensive; a risk to developing serious heart conditions including heart and kidney failure, or stroke.

“This is alarming and emergency policies need to be adopted to moderate on diet, physical activity, weight loss, smoking and alcohol intake,” says the study.

Of its 12 clinics in Nyeri, Nakuru, Thika, Naivasha, Nairobi CBD, Karatina, Karen main hospital, Kitengela, Ngong, Rongai and Meru, those in the city recorded highest rates of obesity, overweight and hypertension. “More than half of clients in Kitengela and Nairobi Heart Clinic were hypertensive. On the contrary, very few cases of hypertension were reported in Karatina and Naivasha,” says the study published in March in the Journal of Association of Physicians.

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Out of 1,718 clients who visited the clinics within one week, about 1,100 were overweight. Only 22 per cent of the clients had normal weight.

Obese or overweight clients were more likely to be hypertensive; the highest risk was found in men of over 40 years. The high rate of hypertension in males is attributed to their likelihood of engaging in risky health behaviour than women.

Men also are rarely screened unless when sick, according to a study by authors who included leading heart specialists, Dr Dan & Dr Betty Gikonyo, also owners of Karen Hospital. On the contrary, females are more screened during special clinics like antenatal,” says lead author Dr Desire A. Nshimirimana.

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Hypertension, Dr Nshimirimana explains, is mainly associated with excessive use of alcohol and tobacco, physical inactivity, high salt intake, obesity, regular consumption of red meat and low intake of vegetables and fruits.

The only national survey on hypertension in Kenya carried out by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation in 2015 found about a quarter of Kenya’s adults are hypertensive.

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Hypertension was also found to increase with economic status; individuals from richest households had higher hypertension at 29 per cent compared with those from the poorest households at 19 per cent.

Despite the health differences, males from the poorest areas of Nairobi are likely to die earlier than their richest counterparts, due to violent events.

A study published last week by Africa Population and Health Research Centre suggested that Nairobi slum residents are more likely to die 10 years earlier than those in richest estates.

Jack Kiuna, who lives in Kibera, says he suspects he has a bad heart but has never gone for check up. “Where is money to go to hospital? And after I know, what next?” he says.

A study carried out last year by the Ministry of Health estimated the cost of screening for hypertension at a public hospital at Sh86 and Sh3,600 in a private facility.

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