Dr Sushil .K. Sharma
To fight against cardiovascular diseases and to raise awareness about them, we celebrate World Heart Day every year on 29 September. Since a healthy heart is the gateway to a healthy life, it is important to ensure the health of your heart. With the growing number of heart patients worldwide, it has become a cause of concern of late. As per reports, millions of people die of heart diseases every year, which is an alarming scenario. Thus, to create awareness against heart diseases and to prevent heart diseases by giving it a tough fight, the World Heart Day is celebrated on the 29th of September each year. This year, the organizers have captured a beautiful World Heart Day 2022 theme – ” Use Heart for Every Heart”. World Heart Day is an opportunity for everyone to stop and consider how best to use heart for humanity, for nature, and for you. Beating cardiovascular disease (CVD) is something that matters to every beating heart.
Use Heart means to think differently. To make the right decisions. To act with courage. To help others. To engage with this important cause. The heart is the only organ you can hear and feel. It is the first and last sign of life. It is one of the few things with the potential to unite all of us as people.
For Every Heart involves the use of “FOR” and swings the focus from the actions themselves to the beneficiaries of the actions, allowing for wider application of the campaign while also making it more personal. We want World Heart Day messages to reach as many individuals as possible to help achieve cardiovascular health for every heart.
Three Key Pillars
Use Heart for Humanity-Access to treatment and support for CVD varies widely across the world. Over 75% of CVD deaths occur in low-to middle-income countries, but access can be an issue anywhere. By getting involved with global events such as World Heart Day as well as local activities, we are empowered to spread awareness and help make a difference in the lives of all humankind.
USE Heart for Nature – Air pollution is responsible for 25% of all CVD deaths, taking the lives of 7 million people every year. Whether they are more immediate actions like walking or cycling instead of travelling by car, or longer-term efforts such as supporting clean air legislation, each of us can contribute to a healthier planet in our own way.
Use Heart for You – Psychological stress can double the risk of having a heart attack. Exercise, mediation, and getting enough quality sleep help to lower stress levels. By resisting the harmful coping mechanisms and bad habits induced by stress, we can maximise our individual heart health.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s number one killer, causing over 18.6 million deaths per year. CVD is a class of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. More people die from CVD worldwide than from any other cause: over 18.6 million every year. Of these deaths, 85% are due to coronary heart diseases (e.g heart attacks) and cerebrovascular diseases (e.g. strokes) and mostly affect low- and middle-income countries.
Heart attack warning signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.
*Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
*Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
* Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
* Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Heart attacks often manifest themselves differently in women than in men. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Prevention of CVD –
According to the World Health Organization, as many as 80% of all heart attacks and strokes are preventable. The majority of deaths due to CVD are precipitated by risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or diabetes, which can, to a large extent, be prevented or controlled through the consumption of a healthy diet, regular exercise and avoiding tobacco. Keeping an eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels is also very important.
A) Eat a healthy and balanced diet- Eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial to maintaining a healthy heart and circulation system. A healthy diet should include a wide variety of unprocessed and fresh foods, including plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions every day), whole grains, nuts and foods low in saturated fats, sugars and salt. Be wary of processed foods, which often contain high levels of salt, and drink lots of water!
B) Exercise regularly-It only takes 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, five days a week, to improve and maintain your health. Adults (aged 18-65) and seniors (65+) should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity, every week. Children and adolescents should do at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every day. Try to make exercise a regular part of your life: use the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. Being active is also a great way to relieve stress and control your weight, which are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
C) Maintain a healthy body weight – Lowering your risk of overweight and obesity normally involves reducing the number of calories consumed from fats and sugars, increasing the portion of daily intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and exercising regularly. At least 60 minutes of exercise most days a week will help you maintain a healthy body weight.
D) Avoid tobacco use- If you stop smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease will be halved within a year and will return to a normal level over time. Avoid smoke-filled environments: exposure to second-hand smoke significantly increases the risk of heart attack. All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. If you’re having trouble quitting tobacco, talk to your doctor about developing a tailored plan to suit your needs.
E) Avoid alcohol-As with tobacco, there is no safe level for drinking alcohol, and the detrimental effects of alcohol far outweigh any potential protective benefits. While drinking less may reduce your risk of CVD, evidence shows that the ideal situation for health is to not drink at all. Even moderate drinkers notice health benefits when they stop drinking alcohol.
F) Know your numbers- Knowing your numbers is an important part of keeping your heart healthy. Checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels on a regular basis is important to help determine and control your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Know your blood pressure: High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the biggest causes of heart attack and stroke. It usually has no symptoms, so it’s important to get it regularly checked and, if needed, take the necessary measures to lower it, which may include dietary changes, increased physical activity, and medication.
Know your cholesterol: High levels of cholesterol in your blood also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. Blood cholesterol can normally be controlled through a healthy diet and, if necessary, by appropriate medications.
Know your blood sugar: High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is a common problem for people with diabetes. Higher blood sugar levels increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes, so it’s important to know your numbers and take any necessary precautions to control your blood sugar.
Take your medication as prescribed
If you have a higher risk of developing heart disease or stroke, you may need to take medication to reduce your risk. These can include statins to lower blood cholesterol levels, low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots, insulin for diabetes and tablets to reduce blood pressure. Take the medication that your doctor has prescribed and make sure you stick to your regimen.
While individual choices play a part in these behaviours, Government and policymakers also play an important role in ensuring people have access to the tools they need to live a healthy life, including clean air, affordable healthy food, and well-planned urban spaces that encourage an active lifestyle. Health policies that create environments where healthy choices are not only available, but also affordable, are essential for motivating people adopt and sustain healthier lifestyles.
(The author is Head Deptt. of Cardiology, GMC Jammu.)
Dr Sushil .K. Sharma