The silent epidemic that is ravaging Nigeria


It is called the “silent killer” because of its sometimes symptomless, sudden and devastating consequence. People who survive the attacks may become fully or partially paralyzed.

Heart attack, stroke, hypertension and heart failure are cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular disease or CDV are diseases that involve the heart and blood vessels.

It was previously thought in Nigeria that CDV was a disease of developed countries. That it was reserved for the US and Europe, when it eventually landed in Nigeria it was believed to be a disease of affluence. However recent development has shown that it is no longer a disease of the rich. It is a disease that does not understand class, race or status. According to the world health rankings of 20 causes of death in Nigeria, stroke and coronary heart disease were ranked 3rd and 4th while Malaria and malnutrition came 6th and 12th respectively.

The demise in Nigeria in June 2016 of Stephen Keshi and Shuaibu Amodu of suspected heart attack brought CDV to the national limelight again. People paid attention because the two were known figures. If this could happen to Keshi and Amodu, what of the others that have been slumping and dying after complaining of severe headache and chest pain? Could this also be the cause of their death? What of those who complained of headache in the night and could not make it through the next day or who went into a coma?

According to medical experts, the number of people in Nigeria with CDV is going to increase unless something is done to address the issues that are causing the rise.

Many people in Nigeria do not know their blood pressure and they do not care to know. As far as they are concerned they are fine. They wait for symptoms and by the time they appear, their heart may already be failing and it is late. Heart attack may lead to heart failure.

When you think of heart attack, what you may imagine is someone feeling a sharp pain and clutching at his heart.attack     That is what we normally see in movies and that is what you expect it to be.  Most times the symptom of a heart attack is silent. You do not need a sharp pain to know that you are experiencing a heart attack. Below are some of the unexpected and strange symptoms of a heart attack

  • pain or discomfort in the arm, shoulder, back, jaw or stomach that last for more than 5 minutes
  • Continuous pressure, tightness or squeezing feeling in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for a few minutes, stops and starts again.
  • Cold sweat which comes as cold and clammy feeling when you are not exerting yourself
  • nausea or vomiting
  • rapid or irregular heart beat
  • A feeling of heart burn or indigestion
  • Dizziness, extreme weakness and anxiety
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Causes of CDV

  1. Unhealthy diet: unhealthy-food-1396551439-b68002a4.jpg An unhealthy diet of high salt intake, processed food, saturated fat and reduced intake of fruits and vegetable can affect our heart health adversely over the years. Most Nigerians are switching to unhealthy foods which they believe is a sign of affluence.
  2. Sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical activity
  3. Irregular wellness exams:Doctor examining elderly male patientFor most people that come to me for fitness consultation, our forms on health assessment makes them to check their Blood pressure. For some it is their first time of checking up on their hearts. That is a poor way to treat a part of you that works even when you are sleeping. That is an apparent lack of concern. You should make regular checkup a part of you.
  4. Grin and bear it: A lot of people are accustomed to 1 challenge or the other. A lot of times they overcome it. When you experience symptoms, you may feel that it is one more thing to bear, that if you ignore it long enough that it will go away. This may lead to a bigger problem.
  5. Physically undemanding leisure time. Most people spend their time in a cubicle with artificial light and a controlled climate for 8hrs every day. On their work free day, they may choose to just stay at home and play catch up with what is happening in the world. They end up sitting all day as their leisure time.
  6. Sitting for long hours, watching TV, movies, working on your computer or playing computer games
  7. Abdominal fat:
    big belly of a fat man and measuring tape isolated on white
    Belly Fat

    Abdominal fat is not an evidence of good living but a sign of CDV. Menopause can also increase the risk of heart disease because of what is popularly called “middle age spread”, or fat in the midsection.

  8. Stress: Long term stress can increase your heart rate. This could damage artery wall and cause a heart disease.
  9. Gradual weight gain – Unhealthy weight – overweight – obesity – Diabetes – Heart disease

Is there any way to prevent CDV? 

CDV is a preventable disease and you can take some of these measures to protect yourself and your family

  1. Experts now agree that a healthy diet and physical activity is the secret weapon to prevent heart disease. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise every week. This means that you should put in 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise 5 days a week. Within the 5 days you should also have 2 days of strength training exercises. Children are expected to have 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  2. A healthy diet: You can never go wrong on a healthy diet. An unhealthy diet takes a toll on the body over the years.
            Foods          More             Less          Avoid
vegetables                    ∗
Nuts and healthy oil                    
Organ meat                   
Saturated fat                   


  1. Control your portion size

big plate.jpgRef:Plates

A lot of the processed food and drinks we see in shops, now come in bigger sizes. They come with names like “super pack”, “more value”, “more filling”. When it comes to food, bigger is not better.

  • Do not overload your plate when you are eating.
  • Do not eat till you feel stuffed or till you belch
  • Use a smaller plate

Observing this 3 rules will not only help you to maintain a healthy weight ,it will help your heart.

  1. Reduce salt in your food

Excessive intake of salt can contribute to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the risk factors in CDV. I know of some people who will not eat without shaking raw salt into their food. This is an unhealthy practice.

  • A great method of cutting down on salt intake is by reducing your intake of canned food and processed food. Canned food like sweet corn, beans, corn beef and sausage, should be eaten in moderation. To help further, when you open the container of your canned food, drain all the water out, wash the food inside the container before using.
  • Prepare your own meals at home. Most restaurants add a lot of salt and taste enhancers to their food which makes them unfriendly for your heart.
  • Another way of reducing your salt intake is to use spices and herbs to season your food

Reduce your salt intake gradually from 1 spoon to ½ spoons. Your taste bud will rebel initially, remember you are in control, if you continue reducing it gradually, your taste bud will get used to it.

  1. Eat more Fiber

Fiber helps a lot in regulating blood pressure and heart health. It is especially helpful in controlling cholesterol level. Fiber found in oats, sweet potato, yam, whole wheat flour and beans, forms a gel in the stomach. This attaches to unwanted fat in the stomach and helps in expelling them from the body.

You can get more fiber into your food by sprinkling ground oats and flax seed on your food.


  1. Limit your intake of saturated fat and Tran’s fat

Saturated fat and Trans fat increases blood cholesterol. Increase in blood cholesterol leads to the buildup of plaque in your arteries which can lead to a heart attack.

Saturated fat and trans fat can be found in solid fat: fats that are solid at room temperature. These heart unfriendly fat include the so called “groundnut oil” found everywhere in Nigeria.

groundnut oil in nigeria

These oil that come in bottles and unmarked yellow containers is not groundnut oil and it is not healthy. Others include. Margarine, non-dairy creamers, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

The eating of the popular “ofe akwu” palm kernel soup, should also be limited and where possible avoided by people especially seniors. Organ meat like liver, (isi ewu), cow head and (“kanda towel and roundabout) animal intestine should be avoided because of the saturated fat content.

Ofe Akwu.png
Palm Kernel stew-Ofe Akwu

Learn to read labels and avoid goods that have hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated fat as an ingredient. Hydrogenated fats are liquid fat that has been solidified by adding hydrogen to it.

Most restaurants use unhealthy saturated fats to cook. Limiting your intake of foods cooked outside your home is a big plus in the fight to keep your heart healthy

Invest in using healthy fats when cooking .They might be a little bit more costly, but in the long run the investment on your health will be worth the price. Use oils like olive oil and canola oil

Certain nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseeds help lower cholesterol.  Sardine, mackerel are fish that contain omega -3 fatty acids which help to lower cholesterol or blood fats. Avocado pear is also a good source of heart friendly monounsaturated fatty acid or MUFA.pear.jpg

Foods like beans, skim milk, skinless poultry, lean meat, lentils fruits and vegetables do not contain saturated fat.

It is surprising but true, that if you take care of your heart you will lose weight

All you need for weight loss is the same thing you need for a healthy heart. Normal, healthy weight and a healthy heart go hand in hand.

Start your weight loss journey today and enjoy a healthy heart.

If someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned, encourage them to seek medical attention.


References LIVING/how-to-prevent-heart-disease-at-any-age





The silent epidemic that is ravaging Nigeria

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