Take care of your heart

Tuyeimo Haidula, CNS Correspondent, Namibia
Take care of your heart instead of burning it out… This was the message delivered by a panel of experts during a webinar organised by CNS and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), in lead up to World Heart Day. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally. In 2012, 31% of all global deaths were attributed to CVDs – this equates to roughly 17.5 million deaths.

An estimated 7.4 million of these deaths were due to coronary heart disease, while 6.7 million were due to stroke. In Namibia CVDs account for about 21% of deaths. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 57% of persons who smoked 30 cigarettes per day for 25 years died of some CVD as compared to only 36% of non-smokers. Speaking during the webinar, programme development manager for World Heart Federation, Alice Grainger Gasser said CVDs and other NCDs hit the poor the hardest. Gasser called for strengthening of the implementation of WHO’s FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) to curb tobacco use, which is a major risk factor for many diseases, including CVD.

“CVDs are a huge barrier to human and economic development and have been neglected in the past by the development agenda. They kill or disable bread winners on whom the family members depend. And in most cases, there is no social protection to buffer income loss. FCTC implementation and health system strengthening are the priorities for reducing CVD. The NCD targets and SDGs offers an unprecedented opportunity mandate for countries to tackle CVD,” said Gasser.

She also said that NCDs cannot be reduced without substantially reducing CVD. A specific target in SDGs is to reduce by 33% premature NCD mortality by 2030.

Professor (Dr) Rishi Sethi from the Department of Cardiology at King George’s Medical University, said a relatively younger group of the Indian population are hypertensive patients. Sethi presented findings of a nationwide blood pressure (BP) survey which was organised by The Cardiology Society of India in September last year. He said the findings which are based on a sample of 74,520 showed that 33% of the respondents were found to be hypertensive, out of whom 25% were between 31-45 years and 13% between 18-30 years. “So hypertension (HTN) is no longer an old age disease. Also 62% of people with HTN were unaware of their condition, which points to a lack of awareness and good screening tests. Despite medications, 42% of hypertensive people had uncontrolled blood pressure, putting them at high risk for heart disease,” Sethi said. He said the findings show that 1/3 of Indians above 18 years have hypertension, 2/3 of those with high BP are not aware of their disease, and in nearly 1/2 of the known cases, HTN is not well controlled.

Sethi listed obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and stress/depression as other emerging risk factors. He said elimination of trans-fat and replacement of saturated with polyunsaturated vegetable oils, along with moderate exercise for 30 minutes five days a week, will lower coronary heart disease risk.

“Stress and depression should be avoided as they almost double the risk of coronary artery disease in previously healthy adults,” he asserted. Doctor Srinivas Ramaka, chairperson of Srinivasa Heart Foundation, said that currently there are major gaps in affordability and availability of basic health technologies and essential medicines, particularly in low and middle income countries, to tackle the problem of CVDs. Ramaka said that lack of access means that patients delay seeking care and either develop complications unnecessarily or pay high out of pocket costs, which can financially devastate households.

Tuyeimo Haidula, Citizen News Service - CNS
October 4, 2016