Cardiologists call for increasing public awareness of ‘heart-healthy’ lifestyle

Heart attack and other cardiac ailments remain a leading cause of death in Pakistan as, according to an estimate, 30 to 40 percent of annual deaths in the country are due to heart failures. However, the most saddening aspect of this situation was that most of these deaths could have easily been prevented through the adoption of a ‘heart-healthy’ lifestyle.

“Family history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high levels of cholesterol and smoking are the five major causes of heart ailments in Pakistan, as is the case in the rest of the world. While a person can’t do anything about his or her family medical history, they can make efforts with respect to the remaining four factors,” said Prof Nadeem Qamar, executive director of the National Institute of Cardiovascular (NICVD), on the occasion of World Heart Day 2017.

Awareness activities were held at various health institutions in Karachi on Friday to mark the day. Symbolic walks and rallies were organised at various places including the NICVD, while awareness seminars were also held at different health and educational institutions to apprise people of habits that lead to cardiac ailments and how people could save themselves from falling prey to these diseases.

Speaking at the NICVD’s awareness seminar, Prof Qamar deplored that a majority of Pakistani people were not aware of the causes of heart diseases and said that their lack of awareness was to blame for the high number of deaths due to heart attacks.

“People don’t care for prevention and control of hypertension. It is highly unfortunate that 80 percent of people who suffer from hypertension are not aware that they are hypertensive. Of those who know about their condition, only 10 percent take medicines and hardly one or two percent make efforts to control their blood pressure,” he said.

Similarly, he added, a majority of people with diabetes do not know that they are diabetic and, of those who know, a majority do not take any medication or make any other lifestyle modifications to control their blood sugar.

He said that a large number of people, including young children, were also falling prey to obesity in the absence of a culture of physical exercise.

Prof Qamar advised cardiologists and public health specialists to apprise people of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, stating that people must be made aware of the fact that their lifestyle was the cause of their cardiac ailments.

“Smoking is another major risk factor for heart ailments and along with diabetes, hypertension and obesity, it is a lethal combination and a major cause of deaths in Pakistan and the rest of the world,” he stated.

Renowned paediatric cardiologist Professor Dr Najma Patel said that 50,000 to 60,000 children were born with Congenital Heart Diseases (CHDs) every year in Pakistan, of which 10 percent die in neo-natal life due to a lack of proper screening after birth and poor awareness among people.

Prof Patel, who is also the head of NICVD’s Paediatric Cardiology Department, said although there was no proper data at the federal and provincial level about the infants born with heart defects, it was widely believed that congenital heart disease cases were on the rise in Pakistan as well as in the rest of the world.

“CHD is not a single disease. There are several types of different cardiac defects. While the cause of a baby developing CHD is not known, it is said to be more common in infants whose mothers were malnourished or taking certain drugs which can cause their offspring to develop CHDs,” she added.

One important and preventable cause was checking for Rubella infection during pregnancy, she said and added that survival rate of infants born with heart defects had significantly increased in the country due to improving diagnostic facilities. However, she said more dedicated efforts were needed to save even more lives at the neo-natal stage.

“Around 10,000 babies are born with cardiac defects every year in Sindh, of which 50 percent are brought to health facilities for treatment while the rest do not survive,” she said, adding that NICVD had registered 9,500 new cases from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last year.

Other health experts called for creating awareness among people in Pakistan through the print and electronic media, stating that public service messages regarding risk factors including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, smoking and high cholesterol should be regularly aired, broadcast and printed.

The medical practitioners urged people to improve their lifestyle, avoid using junk and other foods with high fat content, walk or run daily for 30 to 40 minutes, and to quit smoking to live a healthier and longer life.

Source: The News International (September 30, 2017)