Ghana is recording more cases of stroke among young people of 40 years and below, the acting Programme Manager of the Non-Communicable Diseases of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Efua Commeh, has revealed.
The stroke cases, she said, were triggered by uncontrolled hypertension that had become common in young people in the country recently.
Dr. Commeh said although stroke cases were previously recorded mainly in people between 80 and 90 years old, local hospitals were now recording them in people as young as 35 years and 40-year-olds, most of them resulting from uncontrolled hypertension.
“These strokes that originally we used to see in very aged people are now occurring in the productive work group; people who are actively working,” she said.
“They bring them to the hospital and they say nothing happened and the person collapsed. You check them and they have hypertension. It is this hypertension that gives them complications like stroke, heart attacks, and kidney diseases, among others,” she added.
Describing hypertension as a very serious health problem in the country now, Dr. Commeh said the hospitals kept seeing more young people, sometimes in their 20s, reporting to health facilities with hypertension, adding, however, that those numbers were not as huge as the older age groups.
She said averagely, the country recorded around 600,000 cases of hospital visits every year by people with hypertension.
She was speaking in an interview ahead of World Hypertension Day which will be observed on May 17, on the theme: “Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer”.
Dr. Commeh said stress was chiefly responsible for the recent stroke cases among young people in the country, adding that most young people in Ghana were stressed out.
“(For) Some of them, it is pressure from school, pressure from work, pressure from the home and pressure everywhere; and on top of these stresses, closing quite late from work and getting home late before eating in the night.
At that time of the night, you are not going to get any appropriate food to eat.
You end up taking fast foods, and these, among others, contribute to making us unhealthy, and they are the things that can give us hypertension,” she explained.
She said unhealthy diets, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and physical inactivity, or the lack of exercise were other causes of stroke among young people, pointing out that such conditions were contributory factors that raised blood pressure which could develop into hypertension.
“Hypertension is said to be a silent killer.
It is called silent because when it starts rising, you don’t notice anything.
The first thing you know is you have a severe headache and then the person collapses, and by that time, it would have gotten a bit too late,” she said.
Unfortunately, she said, most people in the country, including young people, hardly checked their blood pressure, adding that for most people, the first time their blood pressure was checked was after they had collapsed and had been rushed to hospital.
Dr Commeh advised young people to have enough rest, pay attention to their diet and reduce fried foods, fats, and oils, as well as salts and sugars to avoid getting hypertension.
She also recommended that they should take small walks in and around their offices after sitting behind their desks for two hours, climb office stairs once or twice a day, and eat more fruits and vegetables.
She urged corporate organizations to undertake proper medical screening for their staff at least once a year.
“Test for fats, blood sugar, urine function, and blood pressure.
That routine screening will help us so that if there is something going wrong, it can easily be picked up and managed,” she said.
She advised young people already diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension to take their medication, explaining that hypertension and diabetes could result in problems, including erectile dysfunction and reproductive problems when left uncontrolled.
Dr. Commeh advised the public to walk to a pharmacy or any clinic to regularly have their blood pressure checked, at least once a month, and to get conditions controlled if they were diagnosed with any, in order that they might live healthier and longer.