The predominant pattern of cardiovascular diseases in sub-Saharan Africa is that of poverty-related conditions (rheumatic heart valve disease, untreated congenital heart disease, tuberculous pericarditis) and diseases of unclear aetiology with a higher prevalence in this part of the world (peripartum cardiomyopathy, endomyocardial fibrosis). However, the prevalence of the traditional risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and marked obesity is high in a number of sub-Saharan settings, although they vary considerably among countries, urban/rural locations and specific subpopulations. In urban settings, hypertensive heart disease with systolic and diastolic function contributes substantially to morbidity. Awareness of the general public and health workers about the burden of cardiovascular diseases in women must be increased, and risk factor control programmes must be included in the health research agenda on the African continent. Improvement in health services with coordination of maternal health services and non-communicable diseases is also needed. This review focuses on the current knowledge of cardiovascular healthcare of women in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly their propensity for various forms of heart disease, access to healthcare, treatment received within the respective healthcare system, response to therapy and mortality. It highlights the gaps in knowledge and the paucity of data in most of these aspects.
- Cardiovascular disease
- heart failure
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Funding KS-H has received support in the form of unconditional research grants for the ‘Heart of Soweto’ and ‘Heart of Africa’ projects from BHP Billiton, Servier, Bayer Healthcare, Medtronic Foundation, the Medical Research Council of South Africa and the National Research Foundation of South Africa and for the Cardiac Disease in Maternity Prevention Program from the Medtronic Foundation, USA.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.