World Heart Day – A peep into the heart of the matter

World Heart Day (WHD) is a global campaign that takes place on the 29th of September every year. It is the brainchild of World Heart Federation. 

World Heart Day reminds people around the world that Cardiovascular    Diseases (CVD) including heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 17.9 million lives each year. Infact, CVD is responsible for nearly half of all Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) deaths.

So it is the world’s number one killer.

World Heart Day focuses on highlighting the actions that individuals can take to prevent and control CVD.

It aims to educate people that, by controlling risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity et cetera, at least 80% of premature CVD deaths can be avoided. 

What is World Heart Federation?

World Heart Federation was formed in 1978 by merging two international  societies. Its original name was International Society and Federation of   Cardiology. In 1998 the name was changed to World Heart Federation. It has more than 200 member associations. It is the leading NGO partner of WHO in CVD prevention.

What is CVD?

Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease of the heart, vascular disease of the brain or diseases of the blood vessels. 

80% of CVD deaths are due to coronary heart disease (due to blockage in blood vessels that are supplying to the heart muscles) and Cerebro-Vascular Diseases (e.g. stroke due to blocks in blood vessels of the brain).

Unfortunately CVD now affects low and middle-income countries like India more than the developed world. In the previous years CVD was more common in the high-income countries but over the past many years, due to good public health initiatives, awareness campaigns and strict governmental regulations, they have been able to bring down the CVD incidences. 
A recent study has shown that now cancer is the leading cause of NCD   mortality in high income countries while CVD still remains the predominant cause of NCD deaths in low and middle income countries.

What are the risk factors for CVD?

There are multiple risk factors for CVD. More the number of risk factors more the chance of developing CVD. Some of these are non-tangible like our family medical history, genetics, age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status etc.

  • Age - the risk of CVD increases with age
  • Gender - males are at greater risk but females, once they are past menopause, have the same risk as males
  • Ethnicity - Asians (especially those hailing from south asian regions such India/Pak/Srilanka ) have increased risk
  • Socioeconomic status - Lower socioeconomic strata population have been shown to have increased CV risk globally. This could be due to increased prevalence of stress and depression or due to an unhealthy diet pattern. Generally all over the world, calorie rich and otherwise nutritionally poor food tends to be cheaper than a balanced nutritional diet. E.g. in the western countries eating out in a burger joint is much cheaper than compared to food in a good quality restaurant

Modifiable risk factors include

  1. Physical inactivity 
  2. Unhealthy diet
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Smoking and other forms of tobacco use
  5. High levels of bad cholesterol
  6. Being overweight 
  7. Stressful lifestyle, anxiety, depression etc.

Diabetes is a partially modifiable risk factor. Even though you may have a genetic propensity to develop diabetes, you can delay or sometimes even prevent the onset by keeping good control of body weight, keeping yourself physically active and by following good dietary practices. Also even if you are a diabetic, good control of blood sugar can reduce your chances of getting CVD complications.

The Message of World Heart Day

By making a few small changes to our lives, we can live longer, better and more heart healthy lives 
The theme of World Heart Day 2019 is “My Heart Your Heart”                        
This is a promise we all have to make, for ourselves and for our loved ones.

Promise to eat well and drink wisely

  • Decrease or avoid sugary drinks
  • Use fresh fruits more
  • Try to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day 
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol
  • Limit or avoid processed and packaged foods, which are mostly high in salt, sugar and fat

Promise to be more active

  • Aim for moderate intensity exercise at least 30 minutes a day for at least five days a week
  • Be more physically active in every activity that you do. For example: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling to work instead of taking the car or bus. Or if you do drive to work, you can park your vehicle at a more distant spot and walk the rest of the way to your office      

Promise to say NO to smoking

One of the best things you can do for your heart 

  • Once you quit smoking your risk of heart disease gets very much reduced within two years and within 15 years you achieve the same risk status as that of a non-smoker

So quit smoking or better still Never Start !!

Be kind to your Heart, you have only One.

Celebrate World Heart Day !!!!!!

Written by:

Consultant Cardiologist