Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the world's leading cause of disability and death. An estimate by the World Heart Federation indicates that 17.3 million deaths are caused due to CVD every year.
However, this "silent killer" is also preventable and can be combated by addressing issues of adverse lifestyles, smoking, physical inactivity, improper diet and stress.
Raising these pertinent issues, Ananta Aspen Centre today hosted a special session on this theme with Ms. Johanna Ralston, CEO, World Heart Federation, Geneva and Dr. Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India. The discussion was steered by Dr. Subhash Manchanda, Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Sir Gangaram Hospital and Former Head, Department of Cardiology, AIIMS.
In her remarks, Ralston advocated the need for collective multi-sectoral efforts in combating this pan-India epidemic.
"Cardio-vascular diseases cause 17.3 million deaths every year. 70-80 percent of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries. In India, two-thirds of deaths due to CVD are premature and preventable. Clearly, this is a global challenge. Our attitudes and mindset towards CVD needs to change to match the growing burden." Ralston commented. "Only a fraction of global development funding goes towards supporting non-communicable diseases and CVD. This is time for a change. It should be realised that health is not a cost but an investment. Our efforts are towards coordinating efforts to reduce premature mortality from CVD by 25% by 2025."
Underscoring the importance of "yoga" and discipline as a preventive measure, Dr. Manchanda asserted that heart diseases were largely caused due to lifestyle issues.
"CVD occurrences have increased five- fold in the last few years. The WHO suggests that 2.5 million people die in India annually. That is about five people every minute. Another aspect is that CVD is now getting increasingly common among young adults. This disease is also diffused among both the rich and the poor, and the urban and the rural segments. We cannot be advanced economically till we advance in terms of health," said Dr. Manchanda.
Broadening the discussion, Dr. Menabde highlighted the vital link between CVD and other ailments such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, while calling for greater convergence between health bodies, civil society, medical fraternity, corporates and governments in tackling this challenge.
"Millions of people are dying due to strokes that can be prevented. These are deaths that should not be happening. 40% of strokes are occurring in people less than 70 years of age. Clearly, we need greater convergence in combating CVD. Raising tobacco taxes, reducing salt in processed food, and greater investment in public health are what we should be pushing for. As of now, 4.2% of India's GDP is directed towards health sector, which is not bad. However, less than 30% of this is public expenditure. This needs to be addressed," Dr. Menabde opined.
Organisations such as the World Heart Federation and the World Health Organisation have been leading the global fight against CVD since the past several years. The key priorities identified by the panel in addressing CVD were to act against tobacco consumption, creating awareness and mobilising efforts to counter hypertension, and improve secondary prevention mechanisms.