DEATH from COVID-19 and chronic illness are inextricably linked.
This according to Dr Rohit Doon, advisor of health promotion communications and public health at the Ministry of Health.
Speaking at the COVID-19 virtual news conference on Wednesday, Doon said that Trinidad and Tobago is marked by its prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Approximately 62 per cent of all deaths in the country are as a result of these conditions and behavioural choices such as a poor diet or lack of exercise among the population.
“The prevalence of co-morbid conditions in COVID patients in this country so far is about 68 per cent accounted by diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Given the prevalence of these chronic conditions in the general society, as we know more than 62 per cent of all deaths in this country are attributable to these diseases, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and more importantly the risk factors that go along with them, unhealthy diets, alcohol, smoking, inactivity and central obesity. We do have these factors most prevalent in the general population,” he said.
These risk factors he said, are a toxic mixture when combined with their presence in COVID-19 patients who develop severe infections. As a result, he said both must be managed simultaneously.
According to Doon, the country is currently facing an NCD epidemic. One such disease known to affect approximately one third of the population is hypertension. Hypertension, he said, is an important risk factor for the development of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
“We do have as non-communicable disease epidemic in this country…So far, we have estimated that we have a prevalence of hypertension in 30 per cent of all adults which makes just over 300,000 persons in this country we estimate to have hypertension. The stark reality is that 30 per cent of population don’t know that they even have hypertension and of the number being treated only about 30 to 50 per cent are being controlled effectively by drugs. In other words, you have to know your numbers.”
“Hypertension is the single most important risk factor for developing cardiovascular conditions. It is very important to understand the relationship between hypertension and cardiovascular disease. We have introduced in this country an evidence-based treatment protocol for hypertension. This protocol speaks to the use of two medications used every single day as a single dose. Globally this has fond to be best practice. When you use those two drugs, you will be able to control your high blood pressure efficiently and effectively so that with good control you can reduce mortality, morbidity and disability from cardiovascular disease by as much as 50 per cent. “
To combat this, he said, good practices such as monitoring bodily functions, exercise, and healthy diets should be used to prevent worsening symptoms.
“Self-management is as effective strategy that we hope every citizen in this country can engage themselves in knowing their numbers, their weight, cholesterol blood pressure and blood sugar and these are the numbers useful to help you live a healthy and happy life,” he said.