The heart has been described over the years as the engine of life. From the moment it is created in a foetus, it continues to beat till the last moment of life. The heart being a muscular chamber, supplies blood and is the pump which controls the circulatory system. It is estimated that every day, the heart pumps blood through 90,000 kilometres of blood vessels.
WORLD HEART DAY
World Heart Day is a World Health Organization (WHO) recognized day that has been set aside to inform people around the globe about Cardiovascular Disease, the world’s leading cause of death which claims about 17.5million lives each year. World Heart Day is celebrated on 29 September each year.
WHY MARK WORLD HEART DAY?
World Heart Day being an initiative of the World Heart Federation aims at
- Creating awareness about Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) which include stroke, heart failure, coronary heart disease and hypertensive heart disease.
- Educating people on the need for controlling risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol intake, physical inactivity and obesity which help in preventing at least 80% of premature deaths from CVD.
It is estimated that 90% of CVD is preventable. Risk factor such as tobacco has been identified. Approximately 10% of CVD is attributed to tobacco smoking. Within two years of stopping smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease being a form of CVD has been found out to be significantly reduced. However, people who quit smoking by age 30 have almost as low a risk of death as never smokers.
High dietary intake of saturated fat, trans-fats and salt, and low intake of fruits and vegetables have been found out to be associated with increased risk of CVD. The World Health Organization attributes approximately 1.7million premature deaths from CVD to low fruit and vegetable consumption. Reducing intake of saturated fat has been found out to reduce the risk of CVD by 17%.
BURDEN OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and disability worldwide accounting for about 17.5million deaths every year. CVD resulted in about 17.9 million deaths (32.1%) in 2015, up from 12.3 million (25.8%) in 1990. Of the 57 million global deaths in 2008, 36 million (63%) were due to Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and 17.3 million (30%) were due to CVDs. Nearly 80% of NCD deaths occur in Low – and middle – income countries (LMICs). Coronary artery disease and stroke account for 80% of CVD deaths in males and 75% of CVD death in females. Most CVD affects older adults. In the United States, 11% of people between 20 and 40 have CVD, while 37% between 40 and 60, 71% of people between 60 and 80, and 85% of people over 80 have CVD.
Cardiovascular is among the top three causes of death in Sub-Saharan Africa with about 210 daily deaths from CVD in South Africa. The challenge is that the prevalence of major risk factors has increased in the last 10 years. Hypertension has been identified as the biggest single risk factor in Sub-Saharan Africa. The African region has the highest prevalence rate, 46% of adults aged 25 and above. The prevalence has been suggested to be increasing rapidly. The number of adults with hypertension in 2025 is predicted to increase by about 60% to a total of 1.56billion, with a disproportionate prevalence developing countries including Sub-Saharan Africa. 1 in 3 South African adults have hypertension and about 10% of the population over 15 years of age are pre-hypertensive. In the Sub-Saharan African region, 30% of adults over the age of 18 suffer from hypertension. In contrast with other CVD risks such as high BMI, the burden of hypertension is greater in lower income countries than higher income settings. Multiple risk factors positively interact to exacerbate CVD risks. Hypertension, for example, combined with unhealthy diets (high sodium and excessive alcohol intake) and lack of physical activity has a multiplicative negative effect on CVD mortality and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs). In Sub-Saharan Africa, the prevention, detection, management and control of hypertension should now be regarded as a high priority. It is estimated that if the 10 – 20 million people who are believed to have hypertension in Sub-Saharan Africa were treated effectively, about 250,000 deaths would be prevented annually.
Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations (FAMSA) is a Non Governmental Body which has contributing towards the improvement of health in Africa as one of her objectives.
Having identified the rise in incidence of CVD in Africa, in marking this year’s World Heart Day, FAMSA aims at
- Creating an awareness about CVD related deaths via various media platforms
The social media being a vital tool in disseminating information is being employed by FAMSA in staging a world class online campaign on the need to have a healthy heart. In line with this year’s theme of “My Heart, Your Heart”, the social media messages will preach sharing power via various ways. Other plans include gathering medical students together to display the need for a healthy heart by snapping with campaign posters and also forming a heart shape.
- Educating the African populace about the possibility of reducing the risk of CVD
Studies have proven that about 80% of CVD risk can be reduced by lifestyle changes. FAMSA hopes to use the various campaign media to educate the African man on the need to engage in daily exercise, stop tobacco smoking, promote healthy diet and check his blood pressure regularly.
- Identifying the risk factors of CVD and how they can be prevented
This campaign will aim at identifying risk factors with high prevalence in our community. In so doing, people who are at high risk are identified and educated about the need to put a stop to the identified risk factors or ensure adequate control as seen in diabetes mellitus.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN REDUCING THE RISK OF CVD
The burden of CVD in Africa can be reduced if the African Government rises up to the increasing rate of CVD related deaths. Various measures that should be put in place include:
- Creating a surveillance system to monitor CVD deaths and identifying those at risk of having CVD
- Implementation of stringent tobacco control policy
- The prevention, early detection, management and control of hypertension should be regarded as high priority.
- Ensuring availability of diets that promote healthy heart and putting in place measures that limit the availability of diet high in fat, sugar and salt.
- Putting in place strategies that control excessive consumption of alcohol
- Promoting physical activity among the populace by creating an awareness on the need for it
- Equipping the healthcare services available and provision of new and effective ones.
- Making available healthy diet for school children.
Healthy heart is essential for healthy living. Ensuring a healthy heart begins with you as an individual. The risk of CVD related death can be reduced and it begins with you. The African government should rise up to the increasing rate of CVD related death. The message of ensuring a healthy heart should be preached to every individual. You and I should make a promise towards a healthy heart!
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Authors: Odedara A. M. and Ogunfolu A. A.