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46pc not aware they have high blood pressure, shows report

Close to half of Kenyan adults could be living with hypertension but have no idea, a report has shown.

The report states that 46 per cent are not aware that they have high blood pressure.

According to findings, only less than 30 per cent of the public know of the complications associated with the condition.

The survey was carried out by a group of non-governmental organisations in partnership with the Health ministry under the Healthy Heart Africa programme.

It also points out that there is a general lack of awareness and data on the cardiovascular disorder which has become one of the most common non-communicable diseases not only in Kenya but Africa.

Lack of awareness is mostly among the rural and low income populations, the report says.

The Healthy Heart Africa Programme was launched by AstraZeneca-a multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company-last year in Kenya. It was a pilot programme geared towards raising awareness on hypertension and getting those living with the condition on treatment.

"One million Kenyans have already been screened for hypertension to date from different parts of the country. 150,000 of those screened had hypertension and are already on treatment. We plan to expand to different parts of the country that we are yet to cover and hopefully to other African countries," Karl Friberg, AstraZeneca head of business said.

Elijah Ogola, the Healthy Heart Africa's principal investigator, said a very small percentage of the population have heard about hypertension from health facilities and systems with majority having heard of the disease from family and friends and the media.

To this effect, the programme has trained over 2,500 health workers across 21 counties on how to screen for and raise awareness on hypertension. "Only seven per cent of those surveyed said they had heard of hypertension from a health worker," Prof Ogola said.

Excessive alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, being overweight, lack of physical exercise and excessive salt intake were all cited as risk factors that could lead to hypertension.

Some of the complications brought about by the disease as Ogola explained include, heart failure whereby the heart fails to pump blood adequately, heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

The programme is also ensuring subsidised costs on hypertension medicine with Mr Friberg saying improving access to medicine is one of their pillars geared towards sustainability of the programme.

"Two-thirds of those screened are women and we want to encourage more men to go for screening," he said.

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