Health is Money: Diseases that cost a fortune – Hypertension
Place your index and middle finger (first two fingers from your thumb) on the inner side of your wrist. Feel the thump there? That is your pulse. It is a measure of how fast the heart beats when supplying blood to the entire body each minute. The heart is expected to have about 75 to -80 beats per minute.
This can however increase when the blood vessels develop narrow lumens from fatty deposits or there is low blood volume which cause the heart muscles overexert themselves. Hypertension is a disease commonly associated with older people about 40 or 50 years and over but recently there has been an widening gap and this trickles the age group range to as low as 25- 30 years.
Hypertension is an increase in the pressure with which blood flows in its vessels beyond the normal levels which is anything between 120/80 to 140/90 for an adult. These two figures will barely make sense if you haven’t had some scientific background. Simply put, the top figure is the measure of the minimum pressure when the heart muscles contract and the lower one is pressure when they relax.
What does it mean to be diagnosed?
So if you go for a checkup at any health facility and you blood pressure is anything above 140/90, should that mean panic? Not yet. To be diagnosed as hypertensive there needs to be at least 6 consistent readings above the normal range. There are different stages and types of hypertension.
There is the prehypertension, primary hypertension, secondary hypertension, and isolated systolic hypertension, hypertension in pregnancy, urgent hypertension and hypertensive emergency. Whichever one you may be diagnosed with, the medication used all come from the same classes. It is important to treat hypertension because untreated hypertension, could lead to stroke, heart attack and in emergencies, death.
Is it Treatable?
Treating hypertension encompasses a variety of classes of medications because a singular approach may meet certain strong uncontended failure.
Medicines used include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzymes inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers. To some patients it’s just atenolol, losartan or lisinopril that has been given to help their situation. Each class functions differently to reduce blood pressure. These medications are used in combination to ensure a better outcome. These medications are always going to need refilling and hence either monthly or bi-monthly patients will need to go back to a general practitioner to fill out prescriptions for their medications. They may also use any local pharmacy to check their blood pressure upon purchasing their medications.
Cost of Treatment
In 2010, a survey in the United States of America patients showed the average cost was US$733 per adult. This cost could be divided between the medication costs, hospital visitations and emergency situations. There is insurance coverage available for all these cost. There is private insurance and government insurance for those cannot afford the private insurance. See expenditures for hypertension
Cost of Treating Hypertension in Ghana
Hypertension is quite common in Ghana and it could be because of the wonderful taste buds which crave taste for fast foods which for some reason may be suggestive of a person’s wealth. Well the good news is that the local pharmaceutical industries produce hypertensive medications right here in Ghana so there will be some affordable ones.
There are possibilities of getting medication for as low as GH¢10 each month however for some unknown reasons some people’s bodies reject these medications and hence foreign brands from the United Kingdom and Germany which are more expensive become the only option. These foreign medications can cost as high as GH¢200 monthly. So in a year, the cost can be between GH¢120 to GH¢1200 for a single medication but most usually use at least 2 medications and can at times need as high as 4 different hypertensive drugs.
Hypertension is not a lone walker. It comes with other chronic diseases like diabetes and cholesterol which will also need their own special medications. These will increase medication costs even further. Private insurance companies in Ghana do make provision for hypertensive patients but they limit this grace by dictating which brands they are willing to pay for. These costs are aside the hospital visitations and emergency situations. The positive part of this is that government insurance also pays for some hypertensive medications so that treatment is fairly affordable. The profitability however may be affected by the instability of the National Health Insurance Scheme in making payments and may cause supply of the medication to not meet its demand.
Why not Prevent it altogether
Hypertension is very preventable. Adjustments need to be made in certain lifestyles like adaptation to the Dash diet. This is the diet recommended for all hypertensive. Dash diet incorporates more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy with less salt (sodium) in the diet. The diet includes more whole grains like brown rice, wheat pasta and wheat bread. There should be a reduction in alcohol intake to only 2 drinks for men and one for women. Intake of saturated fats like butter, cream, cheese and eggs will also be reduced. It is imperative to maintain a healthy weight to improve blood pressure and this makes regular exercise a must on all fronts.
It is assumed that the more a patient adheres to lifestyle changes and sticks to medication the lower the costs will get. But why wait to live on the edge of life before you take better care of yourself, why wait till your body begins to warn you, if you are already in the habit of drinking excessively, eating “rich foods” or letting your taste buds dictate what you will eat. Maybe it’s about time for a turn around. Health is wealth. Enjoy your fast foods once in a while but also put in some fruits, vegetables and exercise.