Take charge to prevent cardio diseases
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29 September 2011
By , Dr. R.N. Kalra
Chennai , India
Cardiovascular diseases claim more than 17.1 million lives every year. If we all become physically active, adopt healthy eating habits and avoid alcohol and tobacco, majority of these deaths can be prevented
Today is the 12th edition of the World Heart Day and this year's theme is One World, One Home, One Heart. Observance of World Heart Day began in the year 2000 to spread the word that deaths caused by heart diseases and stroke can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. From the year 2000 to the year 2010, World Heart Day was observed on the last Sunday of September. However, from this year a decision has been taken to observe this on September 29.
Nearly 29 per cent of all deaths in the world each year are attributed to Cardiovascular diseases (CVD). This number makes CVD the world's number one killer ailment.
Even in India this number has assumed alarming proportion and experts claim that by the year 2015 India will have close to 64 million cases of CVD. Of this number nearly 61 million would be Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) cases, and the remaining would include stroke, rheumatic heart disease and congenital heart diseases. In some of the countries where this epidemic got identified early, public health intervention programmes have contributed in showing positive results and led to a decline in the number of cases.
In India, with the rise of middle classes across the country, economic prosperity and changing lifestyle, this killer disease is now making its presence felt in rural as well as urban areas. It is becoming clear that as we adopt a lifestyle which minimises physical activity, increases use of tobacco and alcohol and also alters food habits, CHD has started spreading its tentacles at an alarming pace and taking a shape of an epidemic.
Epidemiological studies show that a sizeable burden of CHD in adult rural population is 3–5%, while in urban areas it is 7–10% of the population. In India about 50 per cent of CHD–related deaths occur in people younger than 70 years compared with only 22 per cent in the West. This increase in cardio vascular diseases is attributed to increase in the population size due to natural growth, ageing of the population which makes people more vulnerable to chronic diseases at older ages, and increased vulnerability due to lifestyle changes. This problem needs to be tackled at the government level as well as individual level. At the government level there has to be an urgent policy response for the disease's control. It is no longer the disease of the rich or the well educated. Strategies that have been successful in upper middle income countries are available and need to be implemented. Political and bureaucratic will and policies for improving human development index should be implemented and a national cardiovascular diseases control program initiated.
Every year cardio vascular diseases claim 17.1 million lives in the world. Nearly 82 per cent of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries. At individual level if only we adopt healthy eating habits and take up regular physical activity besides avoiding tobacco and alcohol, the majority of these deaths can easily be prevented. And for this to happen we do not have to depend on policy makers and world leaders. Each one of us individuals across the world has to be aware and each one of us has to start working towards reducing the CVD burden by taking up the above suggested steps.
To reduce the CVD risk one has to start at home. Family has to become the focal point. We must begin at home to start taking care of our heart health. And this is the reason that this year the World Heart Federation and its members have decided to focus their efforts on the home front.
Only by adopting a few healthy habits – diet, exercise and by giving up tobacco and alcohol – at home, people, all over the world, can control heart diseases and stroke and in return be blessed with longer and healthy lives. From home this movement can spread and involve people even in their workplaces to establish hearthealthy behaviour. This will in return not only help individuals but also benefit by spreading the movement across communities.
However, we must know that not all heart problems are preventable. Hence, one must know what action to take, should a heart attack or ischaemic stroke occur at home or in workplace. And for this to happen one must be aware and in a position to identify the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke and taking the right steps to prevent it. The World Heart Federation wants all of us to become proactive to help reduce heart disease and stroke across the globe. The federation's message is to individuals, employers, health care professionals and governments. Especially hospitals, nursing homes and various health experts and institutions must conduct community outreach programmes to reach out to the heart patients by bringing quality heart care services at their doorstep, creating awareness, training them to handle emergency and thus saving the precious life.
All of them individually should be coming forward to launch programmes which must include free heart check up camps, information, education and communication campaigns, provide training on basic life support systems and emergency care and hold counselling and stress management workshops. As part of awareness campaign we must advocate four actions –– like banning smoking and consuming tobacco, giving healthy food options, to be active and go for frequent visits to healthcare centres for check up. By following these simple steps, we all can reduce the burden of CVD. If we all take these steps, we will not only make the World Health Organisation's theme One World, One Home, One Heart a success but also be able to combat the cardiovascular diseases at global level.
"We know what works, we know what it costs and we know that all countries are at risk. We have an action plan to avert millions of premature deaths and help promote a better quality of life for millions more," says the World Health Organisation. Let's all join hands to save people from this fast spreading epidemic.