Dr. Francis Ashibudike Idebolo is a medical practitioner working and residing in Lagos. Recently PharmaTimes Reporter, GLORY OKPE was at his office in Lekki to have a chat with him on issues that border on health and healthy living. Excerpts:
In recent times, there have been quite a good number of incidents where people, especially young people collapse and die suddenly. What in your opinion is responsible for this worrisome trend? Do you think it has a direct link to hypertension?
Yes, of course. In recent times, you’ll agree with me that in our environment for example, lots of people do not go for medical checkups; they don’t check their blood pressure, they don’t exercise, and they don’t do anything physically active. Sometimes, they have high tendencies to developing hypertension. Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure condition where the systolic BP is more than 140 and the diastolic BP is more than 90 on at least two different occasions. Under normal circumstances, a person’s blood pressure is supposed to be lower than 120/80; that is for the systolic and diastolic BP; so once your BP goes above 140/90, it means the person in question is hypertensive; this could be the cause of sudden deaths. This is owing to the fact that there is a situation called left ventricular failure which happens as a complication of hypertension when the heart overworks; it becomes weak and can lead to heart failure, and like you asked, it can cause sudden deaths in people eventually.
What do you think about Hypertension and High Blood Pressure (HBP); do you think they are in any way different or better still, are they the same thing?
Hypertension in itself is a diagnosis, while high blood pressure is just a symptom of the aforementioned. You can actually have high blood pressure without necessarily being hypertensive. That is the difference there is to both of them. One’s blood pressure could get high as a result of stress, not sleeping well the previous night, and stuff like that, but that doesn’t mean in effect that one is hypertensive.
You mentioned a while ago that people do not go for checkups as due, as well as do basic things that will help them remain healthy; so would you say that individual lifestyles contribute to these things?
I would say yes. I will give you some instances of individual lifestyle changes that cause hypertension. Things like Obesity, (that is, a person being abnormally overweight), smoking, constant alcohol intake, increased salt consumption, little or no exercises at all, and others are basically factors that predispose people to having hypertension.
So to what extent can this whole thing be blamed on stress?
For stress, there is usually a process. What happens in stress situations is that there is a surge of hormones. This simply means that when you are stressed out, there is a stimulation of the nervous system which produces a large amount of vaso-constrictive hormones. Vaso-constrictive here implies that it compresses or constricts the vessels; it therefore follows that stress can be blamed for hypertension.
Still on hypertension…, if a person is already suffering from hypertension, how exactly should they pattern their lives, seeing you mentioned some issues related to it above?
Sufferers are over time advised that some basic measures they can adopt can actually help them lead better lives even if they are hypertensive. For example, if sufferers shed weight, cut down their alcohol intake, reduce their sodium (salt) intake, maintain adequate dietary potassium and calcium, stop smoking completely, reduce fatty foods and cholesterol intake, take part in aerobic exercises, etc., sufferers will certainly get better, if they consciously pattern their lives this way.
Can you give us 3 practical tips for healthy living?
In naming 3 practical tips for healthy living for those that are hypertensive, we advise firstly – weight loss/reduction. I am saying this because research and studies have shown that for every 10kg you lose, your BP will be reduced by 10mm mercury; you’ll agree with me that is a lot, and highly beneficial too. When you engage in aerobic exercises for 30 minutes per day, it brings down your BP by 4 to 9mm mercury, which is equally beneficial. Thirdly, complete stoppage of alcohol intake will to a very good extent help people in leading better lives.
Thank you. Now, I like for you to veer a little into something else. Let’s talk a little about recent trends in medicine, can you please tell us what’s happening currently in the medical world as it concerns medicine?
As regards medicine, there is actually something of interest to me called Regenerative Medicine. Actually, it is basically about stem cells.
It is a process of creating living functional tissues; it can be used to repair or replace worn out tissues or organs lost due to ageing, disease(s) or congenital defects; so basically, it involves us (medicals) adopting the use of stem cells. It is not really a new process or finding in medicine, though it is still being worked on; we’ve not gotten there yet, but we hope to soon. Stem cells are basically of two types, they are the Embryonic and the Adult stem cells, but the type that catches my interest more is the Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. The major difference between them is that the embryonic is gotten from blastocysts which are gotten from embryos of patients that go through IVF (In-vitro Fertilisation), while the other one known as the Adult Stem cells is normally done in the laboratory, by reprogramming cells which can be gotten from adults, unlike the other one that relies mainly on embryos gotten from expectant mothers.
These stem cells allow us to develop muscles, bones, the nervous system, skin and virtually everything. What scientists are hoping to achieve with and through stem cells is to solve problems, so that every disease can actually be cured by the use of stem cells. It can be used in cases of stroke, deafness, wounds, injuries, bone damage, and everything in medicine can be done with stem cells. Now, it is important to note that stem cells come with its own advantages and disadvantages. The major problem with it is its very expensive nature and procedure, because abroad, from what I read, it costs about N25,000,000 (twenty five million naira) for one procedure – if just one person is to be administered Stem Cells on. A recent case too I know of at (UBTH) – that is the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Edo state, where a 7 year old boy with sickle cell anaemia, back in year 2011 underwent a stem cell transfer, and I think the boy is doing very fine today. I believe it is a step in the right direction in medicine, and in years to come, it will be of immense benefit to us, as it will hamper some common issues that cause mortality these days.
You mentioned in your response above that we are not there yet. So, I like to know, how long do you think it will take us to get there?
(Laughter)… It will take us ages; nobody knows yet actually because we still have issues that need to be dealt with. Basic questions are yet to be answered like who’s going to be the owner of the cloned beings? Will it be the owner of the embryos/ adult cells used, or the laboratory that actually did the cloning of the cells? Political will too, can stand as a barrier to actualising it. This is because getting a government to make a policy in that regard might end up a herculean task as some governments might not consent to investing in a research of such magnitude. Furthermore, some might not agree with it because they may believe it is going to take the place of the sovereignty of God. So you see there are still issues that need to be resolved if the concept of Regenerative Medicine will see the light of day.