Matters of the heart worry doctors as deaths hit 10pc
Doctors yesterday raised the alarm over rising cases of Kenyans suffering from heart diseases, attributing it to habits such as alcohol consumption and smoking.
They revealed that currently, heart diseases are responsible for three out of every 10 hospital admissions in Kenya.
“It is estimated that hospital admissions due to cardiovascular diseases have gone up to around 30 per cent recently; while the deaths associated with these conditions are also rising,” said cardiologist Vijaysinh Patil.
He further warned that one in every 10 deaths in the country results from heart conditions. “The burden of heart diseases in Kenya is not slowing down,” he said during celebrations to mark World Heart Day.
The specialists attributed the rise in heart diseases to high alcohol consumption, use of tobacco, sugary beverages, and fatty and salty foods.
The latest figures are a significant rise from those released by the Health Ministry in 2018, which showed that an estimated 25 per cent of hospital admissions were due to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) while 13 per cent of autopsies pointed at heart diseases.
The Kenya Cardiac Society chief executive officer, Dr Lilian Mbau, also cautioned about an increase in heart diseases among children. “Children between 13 and 15 years have adopted lifestyles that have pre-exposed them to non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and cardiovascular illnesses,” she said.
Dr Mbau called on the government to implement the Kenya National Guidelines for Cardiovascular Disease Management in order to ensure the country’s health policy focuses on halting and reversing non-communicable diseases.
Dr Patil, on his part, said the country could be staring at a major health crisis unless healthy lifestyles are adopted.
But on a positive note, the specialists noted a rise in the number of successful heart procedures and surgeries in Kenya.
They cited Mediheal Hospital in Nairobi, which has conducted over 200 successful heart surgeries, and 1,000 procedures and treated more than 3,000 outpatients in the past year.
These surgeries included one involving an 88-year-old retired professor of botany. Dr Anant Prasad Shamshery, a retired botanist from New Delhi, India, was visiting Kenya when he started experiencing difficulties in breathing. He was taken to the hospital and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
He recalls: “Within a week of my arrival to visit my son, on a Saturday afternoon, I had a heart problem — breathlessness coupled with a high tachycardia heartbeat”.
Prasad says he underwent heart surgery and was discharged a month ago.
Veronica Mwaura has a similar story. She was treated in various hospitals for myriad diseases, including arthritis. In 2020, she lost her father to Covid-19, although he was also being treated for hypertension. Whenever her heartbeat increased, she would also be treated for hypertension.
New lease of life
“One day I also contracted Coronavirus and pneumonia. I was taken to the hospital, but I did not have the Sh400,000 needed for admission to ICU. Luckily, someone told me about Mediheal Hospital,” she narrated, adding: “That’s how I got a new lease of life”.
Dr Nasirumbi Magero, head of the cardiovascular programme at the Ministry’s Non-Communicable Diseases Division, cautioned against the consumption of fatty foods. “Hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are largely caused by unhealthy foods, mostly highly processed,” Nasirumbi said.