Today, September 29 is the world Heart Day. The theme this year is ‘share the power’.
Why is a whole day dedicated to a body organ each year? Did you know that cardiovascular diseases remain as the leading cause of death worldwide? More importantly, the World Heart Federation has declared that at least 80% of the premature deaths can be prevented by controlling preventable risk factors. Therefore, Health Capsule consulted Dr. M.R Mubarak, Consultant Cardiologist, National Hospital Sri Lanka, and the Vice president of the Sri Lanka Heart Association to obtain more information about the prevention of heart diseases and his views about World Heart Day.
About Cardiovascular Diseases
The heart is the powerhouse of the body, generating enough pressure to pump our lifeblood throughout the body. Therefore, every other organ in the body is dependent on the heart to keep working.
The heart is a pump consisting of two sides; the left and the right. The right side receives the de-oxygenated or ‘used’ blood in the body and sends it to the lungs for it to be cleared and re-oxygenated. The left heart receives this ‘good’ blood from the lungs and re-distribute it throughout the body.
The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and the vessels that are transporting the blood from the heart. Therefore Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) also cover heart diseases (Cardio) like heart attacks and sudden cardiac death, and diseases of the vessels (vascular) like stroke, said Dr. Mubarak. He stressed on the Burden of CVD saying that 31% , of all the world’s deaths are due to cardiovascular causes. “That is almost one third of all deaths worldwide. All the other causes like cancer and road traffic accidents come after CVD,” he explained.
The aim of world Heart Day is to spread awareness among the people about how to prevent CVD, since most of these illnesses can be prevented if we addressed the causative factors in a timely manner.
Heart cells, like other cells, need oxygen and nutrients to function. These are supplied by a network of blood vessels surrounding the heart, called coronary arteries. These vessels are obstructed by cholesterol plaques called atheroma which are collected in the wall of blood vessels. The atheromas narrow the blood vessels, obstructing the blood supply to heart muscle. Once these vessels are completely obstructed, they give rise to a heart attack.
Smoking is the number one risk factor followed by Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, high blood cholesterol. “A sedentary lifestyle with a lack of exercise, bad food habits and stress are also risk factors for CVD,” Dr. Mubarak said.
Now that we know what the risk factors are, how do we prevent a heart attack or a stroke? Smoking cessation is pivotal in preventing a heart attack, according to Dr. Mubarak. Getting the blood sugar levels checked regularly in adults and if diagnosed with diabetes, keeping the blood sugar levels under control is also highly important. This could be achieved through dietary control and through medication.
“If you are above 35 years old, checking your blood pressure and if it is high, taking treatment would go a long way towards the prevention of both strokes and heart attacks,” he added. But what about the young generation? Should they only start thinking about heart attack prevention when they are past 35? That isn’t so. By leading an active lifestyle, with a minimum of 30 minutes of regular exercise at-least five days a week incorporated into their schedule, anyone can start fighting against CVD from a younger age. But it’s not too late to start exercising for the adults too. Having healthy food habits with limited fats and sugars, maintaining your weight to match your height and leading a life with a minimum of stress will also contribute towards the health of your heart.
How to recognize a heart attack?
While you are leading a healthy life, it’s good to be always prepared in case of an emergency. This may in turn save your life or the life of your loved one. So we asked the doctor to explain to our readers about the danger signs of a Heart attack.
The main feature of Heart attack is the sudden chest pain associated with other factors like sweating, nausea and vomiting. The pain may be spreading to other nearby areas like the arms the neck or the jaw. The pain is usually felt as a tightening and severe type of chest pain, but may come as more of a burning type of a chest pain. “If the chest pain comes as a burning type of pain, most people self-diagnose it as gastritis, using whatever home remedies available and delay seeking medical treatment until the last moment. This may give rise to more complications, sometimes even ending up with the death of the patient,” Dr. Mubarak stated.
Therefore it’s of utmost importance that you seek early medical treatment in case of a sudden onset chest pain, no matter whatever the type. Thereafter, the doctor will perform ECG and blood tests, and will decide if you are having a heart attack. “The importance of seeking early treatment can’t be stressed enough. If you have a sudden onset chest pain, don’t delay until the sun rises or until your work is done.Immediately go to the nearest Out Patient Department or the medical centre,” was the advice Dr. Mubarak gave readers.
About World Heart Day
While the whole world is celebrating The World Heart Day, spreading awareness about preventable causes of Heart disease, Sri Lanka Heart Association (SLHA) is also making Sri Lankans aware of the prevention of CVD. “We have organized a Heart Walk on October 15 commencing from the BMICH premises to spread awareness of the importance of exercise in preventing CVD. Consultants would offer free advise on various other health related topics like dietary and behavioural modifications for a healthy life at the event,” he stated concluding the interview with an invitation to all to be present at the BMICH premises on this day.