Nutritional status, blood pressure levels and the associated risks for hypertension among Kenyatta University employees, Nairobi, Kenya
Mogesi, Betty Samburu
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Cardiovascular diseases cause 16.7 million deaths worldwide annually. WHO Data (2002) showed that hypertension was the major contributing factor to all deaths in the world. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally with more than 1 billion adults overweight of whom 300 million are clinically obese. The Kenya Health Management information system recorded 28% inpatient mortality as a result of cardiovascular diseases in the year 2001. The aim of this study was therefore to determine the nutritional status, blood pressure levels and the associated risks for hypertension among Kenyatta University employees. Many studies have been done to assess nutritional status in mothers and children. Little is known about the diets or nutritional status of adults in general population. There are still shortcomings in the available data and several challenges remain; most epidemiological data come from western countries and may not be fully relevant to Kenyan situation where diet and other factors may differ substantially. The study was carried out at Kenyatta University which was purposively selected. The target groups were both teaching and non-teaching employees aged between 25 to 75 years. The study used a descriptive survey design. The sample size was 236 subjects selected using multistage sampling technique. The main data collection instrument was a questionnaire. Data analysis was done using SPSS computer package. To determine the relationship between social demographic characteristics, dietary habits, lifestyle habits, nutritional status and hypertension, logistic regression was applied. Pearson Product- Moment correlation (r) was used to test the hypotheses. Odds ratio were determined for factors that relate to hypertension. Many participants had intake of nutrients that were below the recommended daily allowances especially the minerals and vitamins. The data revealed that diets of most employees (70%) needed improvement. About 10% of the population had a good diet and 20% had a poor dietary intake. Of the 236 subjects, 35.6% were overweight, another 16.9% were classified as being in obese class 1 and 3.4% were in obese class 2. In general 39.4% of the study subjects had hypertension (BP>140/90mmHg or taking antihypertensive medicine). However, 36.7% of respondents with high blood pressure were unaware of their hypertensive status. Most people reported low level of physical activities that were within their main occupation such as walking to work. There was a strong positive relationship between obesity and hypertension p value 0.000 at 95% confidence interval. Other variables that were positively and strongly related to hypertension were age and physical activity (p-value 0.001). Physical activities were found to be key in controlling blood pressure. The low intake of micronutrients is a health risk and preventive measures need to be put in place. More than half of Kenyatta university employees had poor nutrition status as depicted by high level of overweight and obesity. This data reveal that obesity and hypertension is already emerging as a public health problem that needs to be addressed. The level of awareness on hypertensive status is suboptimal among the employees and this call for creation of awareness through information, education, social mobilization and advocacy activities that should move beyond the current focus. Therefore institutions should take action on diet and health as part of their responsibility for protecting the health of their populations. Since hypertension is emerging as a public health problem it is important to gather epidemiological data on hypertension as a crucial step in the design of sound preventive and control programme. An intervention study is needed on the role of nutrition in management of hypertension.