The Nigerian Heart Foundation and nutritional experts have expressed concern over the increase in cardiovascular diseases and related deaths in Nigeria.
The experts, who spoke at the NHF’s Stakeholders Meeting themed ‘Lipids and Cardiovascular Health: Global Status and the Nigerian Perspective’ on Tuesday in Lagos, called for national guidelines on the production and consumption of foods and beverages.
Speaking at the meeting, Prof. Rasak Sanusi, a former Head, the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Ibadan, stressed the importance of a controlled and regulated diet to enhance cardiovascular health.
Sanusi, who was the Chairman of the occasion said: “There is a need for the development of national guidelines for the production and consumption of healthy foods with acceptable lipid concentration based on global standards and best practices.
“The quality of life cannot be described as what it was 10 or 15 years ago, there is a difference between feeding and eating. Eating is what human beings do, and feeding is what animals do.
“The difference between them is choice. When we have choices of what we eat then we are eating.
“On the other hand, when choices are removed, we are only feeding. With this definition, I wonder how many of us in Nigeria are actually eating or feeding,” Sanusi said.
Calling for the reexamining of the role of each of the stakeholders, Sanusi said that Nigerians should be informed about their cardiovascular health.
Chairman, Executive Council, NHF, Dr. Femi Mobolaji-Lawal, said: “Ultimately, what we consume affects our health. What we consume has a direct relationship with our cardiovascular system, especially our heart.
“We know that what we consume, especially the Lipids affects our heart.”
Mobolaji-Lawal said that the multi-sectorial meeting had become necessary to review evidence of what was happening globally and our experience in the country to guide policy markets and activities.
According to him, the meeting is in furtherance of the World Health Assembly and World Health Federation’s findings that cardiovascular diseases, especially hypertension is the major contributor to death.
Also speaking, Dr. Sonny Kuku, President of Non-Communicable Disease Alliance Nigeria, decried the life expectancy in Nigeria, saying cardiovascular diseases accounted for a lot of deaths in the country.
Describing the meeting as appropriate, Kuku said, “In this part of the country, we love lipid. Lipid needs to be controlled and when controlled, life expectancy can be raised to 80 years.”
Doing an overview, Prof. Isaac Adeyemi, Director, Scientific Affairs, NHF, said that the objective was to update on the current global and national status of Lipid concentration and profile in food and beverages and also the potential impacts of food on cardiovascular health.
Urging consumers to select heart health options, Adeyemi stressed the need to invest in monitoring and surveillance mechanism such as laboratory capacity to measure Trans Fatty Acids content in foods.
On challenges, he said that foods and beverages being consumed must align with global health standards, “it is important that the food industry strives as much as possible to meet national, regional, and global standards.
Adeyemi also stressed the need for an early warning system that would involve scientists, academia, and government agencies in curbing the rising incidence.
“Consumers must read the nutrition facts on food products. The industry should replace trans fats in processed food as soon as possible and where feasible with healthy alternatives,” he said.
The Executive Director, NHF, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, said: “We want Nigerians to live long. We want Nigerians to live healthily and we want a productive population, quite a lot of our young executives have been dying suddenly.
“The commonest cause of sudden death is the heart. We want everybody to be healthy. Right from the family to the policymakers, everybody has got responsibility.
“We know that the number factor in heart disease is diet and the commonest culprit in the diet is fat. Although salt is also there, but fat is key.”
“We review what we do every four years. The last time we did this was in 2016 and so, now this is high time we fall into the global standard.
“Individuals should go take care of themselves and ensure that they check the contents of foods and beverages they buy. If it’s friendly, does it carry the logo of Nigerian Heart Foundation, among others,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the participants were drawn from all relevant agencies, academia, the food industry, research scientists, university, government, regulatory agencies, organisations, and consumers among others.