Cardiovascular diseases prevention and control


Cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension,stroke, heart failure and diseases of the coronary arteries are increasing rapidly in the African Region and now represent a major public health problem. Cardiovascular diseases have a major impact on individuals, families and societies in terms of health-care costs, absenteeism and loss of productivity.

One reason for the recent rise in cardiovascular diseases is the ageing population in the Region.

Behavioural and physiological risk factors (raised blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol, overweight and obesity) are responsible for 75% of cardiovascular diseases. An important phenomenon seen in Africa is a tendency for symptoms to appear at younger ages.

High blood pressure is a very common problem among adults in the Region, which reports the world’s highest prevalence of hypertension (38.1% among males, 35.5% among females) with some countries reporting prevalence rates of 50% or higher. The prevalence of hypertension has increased significantly over the past two to three decades.

There were approximately 80 million adults with hypertension in sub-Saharan Africa in 2000 and projections based on current epidemiological data suggest that this figure will rise to 150 million by
2025. Furthermore, there is evidence indicating that complications of hypertension, particularly stroke and heart failure, are becoming increasingly common in sub-Saharan Africa.

High salt intakes are common in the Region, usually because salt is used to preserve food but also because it is added to make food tastier. Salt is also added to already-prepared food by the consumer, as processed food is rare. Studies have shown that decreased salt intake not only reduces blood pressure and related cardiovascular disease risk, but has other beneficial cardiovascular effects.