Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally as well as in India. These are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. These include coronary heart disease (heart attack), rheumatic heart disease (damage to heart valves and tissues following infection by streptococcus bacteria), congenital heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), peripheral arterial disease (involves blood vessels supplying arms and legs) and deep vein thrombosis.
In 2016, cardiovascular diseases accounted for 31% of all the deaths worldwide. Of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke, about three fourth of these occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The onset trend in occurrence of heart diseases in India has been on the rise, as compared to our western counterparts. The underlying reason for an increase in a number of deaths is the delay in diagnosis and health seeking behaviour. It not only the disease of the affluent section as commonly believed but also affects the underprivileged section of the society. The cost of treatment of disease and complication poses an economic burden on the families, driving them further into debts and poverty. Understanding how cardiovascular diseases are triggered and what precautionary steps to take is extremely necessary to avert any risks associated with them.
Understanding Your Heart’s Enemy
Heart attacks are acute events that are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart. The block is commonly due to deposition of fat on the inner walls of the blood vessels supplying the heart. There are many risks that contribute to heart attacks and be categorised into two: modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Risk factors such as advancing age, male gender and family history are some of the examples that are not modifiable. Modifiable risk factors, on the other hand include consumption of tobacco related products, physical inactivity, obesity, excessive consumption of alcohol and unhealthy diet which may include excess salt, sugar and saturated fat. The presence of co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes and raised lipid levels increases the risk of occurrence of heart attacks.
The symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort which may last for several minutes, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, tiredness and weakness, racing heartbeat, swelling of the ankles, feet, legs or abdomen and excessive sweating.
My Heart, Your Heart
The theme for the world heart day this year (29th September) is My heart, your heart. It is about saying to ourselves, the people we care about and the individuals all over the world, “what can I do right now to look after My heart and your heart?” Remember in the above section I made a mention of risk factors which are modifiable. If you can tackle these factors, you can significantly reduce the risk of occurrence of heart disease.
- Sweat out the calories!! Be physically active for at-least one hour a day. The activity might be jogging, walking, swimming or being involved in any sports of your choice.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of obesity, diabetes as well as heart disease. Avoid prolonged period of sitting at the desk. Take regular breaks after every one hour of sitting. For instance, taking the stairs instead of lifts.. Being physically active also helps you maintain an ideal body weight and prevent obesity.
- Mind what you eat! It is not always just about filling our tummies with food but filling it with the right kind of food that matters. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid excess intake of salt, sugar, fried foods and unsaturated fat.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol.
- Maintain the blood glucose level, blood pressure and blood lipids under control.
- Have regular check-ups and seek advice from your doctor especially if you have a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Make a promise: This World Heart day, let us make a promise to be more active, to quit smoking, to avoid alcohol and to eat healthy. A simple promise for my heart, for your heart and for all our hearts can indeed make a lot of difference…!!
- World health Organization. Key facts- Cardiovascular Disease. Available from http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)
- World Health Organization, India. Cardiovascular diseases. Available from http://www.searo.who.int/india/topics/cardiovascular_diseases/en/
- World Heart Federation. World Heart day. Available from http://www.world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/