Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) encompass a range of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, and more. Any irregularities in blood flow to the heart can impact the functionality of other organs in the body. Early identification of individuals at high risk for CVDs and providing appropriate treatment can prevent premature deaths. Globally, CVDs are the leading cause of death, claiming approximately 17.9 million lives each year.
Recognizing the critical importance of cardiovascular health, the Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp) organized an online seminar for pension industry professionals. The seminar, titled "Understanding Your Cholesterol Levels: Insights into Cardiovascular Health," aimed to educate participants about the health implications of CVDs, including the build-up of fatty deposits in arteries, increased clotting risks, and damage to vital organs like the brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes.
Professionals from across Nigeria's pension sector participated in this knowledge-sharing session. The Chief Executive Director of PenOp, Mr. Oguche Agudah, delivered a brief discussion on the significance of cardiovascular health and cholesterol examinations for early treatment and longevity.
Dr. Udofia Akanimo, a physician with over a decade of experience in various medical fields, shared insights during the session. Participants learned about different types of heart diseases and associated symptoms, including coronary disease, strokes, transient ischemic attacks (TIA), peripheral arterial disease, and aortic disease. Risk factors for CVDs were also discussed, such as hypertension, smoking, dyslipidemia, diabetes, sedentary lifestyles, obesity, family history, race, age, gender, diet, and alcohol consumption.
The key takeaway from the seminar emphasized the importance of regular medical check-ups, stress management to prevent anxiety, and knowing the Nigerian emergency number (112) for life-saving situations. The session also shed light on hypertension and dyslipidemia as high-risk factors for CVDs.
Hypertension was explained as both persistent and incidental increases in blood pressure, with non-modifiable risk factors including age, sex, race, and family history. Modifiable risk factors included smoking, alcohol, salt intake, sedentary lifestyles, and stress.
The session delved into "dyslipidemia," an unhealthy level of lipids (fat) in the blood. It can lead to cholesterol build-up in blood vessels, potentially causing heart problems or strokes. Participants were informed about cholesterol testing through fasting lipid profiles and the healthy cholesterol level of 5mmol/L or below. Non-modifiable risk factors included Familial Hypercholesterolemia, while modifiable factors encompassed alcohol consumption, smoking, high-fat diets, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and diabetes.
Preventing hypertension and dyslipidemia involves taking antihypertensive and lipid-lowering medications, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding smoking (both first and secondhand), decreasing salt consumption per WHO recommendations (1.5g-2.3g daily), engaging in regular exercise (swimming and brisk walking), managing stress, and maintaining a well-balanced diet rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium (e.g., bananas, avocado pears, and cucumbers).
This session was part of PenOp's monthly knowledge-sharing series, providing pension industry professionals with opportunities to network, exchange ideas, and engage with subject matter experts on relevant topics.