Nigerians above the age of 40 years have been advised to regularly screen for conditions that predispose to cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, hypertension and heart attack.
Dr Helen Ilori, a consultant family physician, gave the charge at the August edition of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Oyo State branch Continue Medical Education lecture entitled ‘Cardiovascular Risk Assessment: Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs).’
Ilori said a steady rise in the incidence of CVD and its risk factors such as hypertension, tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity was observed in Nigeria.
Dr Ilori said just as an increment of 20mmHg systolic blood pressure or 10mmHg diastolic blood pressure doubles the risk of cardiovasular disease, so do smokers have about 1.5 times higher risk of stroke than non-smokers.
Ilori noted that although they may go on symptomless for years, their first manifestation is always fatal in more than 35 per cent of cases.
Ilori quoted WHO to have said that over 75 per cent of premature deaths from these diseases are preventable and as such, there is the need for regular cardiovascular risk assessment for adults above age 40 or those with relatives with a history of CVDs to curtail them.
According to her, individuals’ risk assessment for CVDs is a critical step in the current approach to their primary prevention and the first step in their treatment.
“It will help to search for all cardiovascular risk factors and clinical conditions that may influence prognosis and treatment, identify those at high risk and in need of urgent intervention; and help to identify those who need special investigations.
“The first manifestation of CVD is still often lethal or result in long-term disability. Therefore, optimal primary prevention with cardiovascular risk assessment as cornerstone should remain a priority.
“First contact doctors need to offer preventive measures to healthy individuals free of CVD and educate them on adherence to medications and lifestyle modifications,” she said.
Chairman at the lecture, Dr Abiodun Adeoye, a cardiologist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said that there is no evidence that daily use of low dose aspirin can prevent heart attack and stroke in everyone at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
He stated that aspirin should only be taken by individuals that have already had cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attack, who are less than 70 years old, to prevent its recurrence.
Dr Adeoye urged doctors to prioritise cardiovascular disease assessment in their patients given that over 75 per cent of deaths from CVDs were premature and cost of treatment is high.
Oyo NMA chairman, Dr Akin Sodipo, however, urged that doctors also take their health more seriously by avoiding self-treatment and to undergo regular cardiovascular disease assessment.