The theme for the World Heart Day 2014, being observed on the 29th of September every year, is to create a heart-healthy environment to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Heart diseases have been responsible for mortality over the years and continue to be one of the major causes of death worldwide. According to World Heart Federation, 17.3 million deaths occur due to cardiovascular diseases each year, this represents 30 per cent of global deaths and accounts for nearly half of the 36 million non-communicable diseases deaths annually. By 2030, it is expected that 23 million people will die from heart diseases annually.
The federation adds that more than 60 per cent of the global burden of coronary heart diseases (CHD) occurs in developing countries. Previously thought that CVD was a man's disease, but now recognize that more women die of a cardiac event than men. However, the most obvious yet ignored fact is that majority of the heart diseases are caused due to modern lifestyles, and can be prevented by simple alterations in lifestyle. Yet, for some reason, most of us do not take this fact seriously.
One of the reasons we find it difficult to adopt heart-healthy lifestyles is that often, our environment is not conducive to such changes. We find it easier and often cheaper to seek junk food instead of healthy meals. Our jobs often force us to sit in one place for hours and do not encourage us to burn calories and exercise our hearts. Lack of open spaces results in most of us spending more time in front of the television rather than going out for a refreshing walk. Peer pressure also has its consequences. For example, smoking is often a consequence of peer pressure, and is one of the worst triggers for heart disease.
The World Heart Day, observed on the 29th of September every year by the World Heart Federation, directs our attention to improving the environment in our homes, and places of work or play to keep our hearts healthy.
Some of the main factors associated with heart disease are:
Smoking has a damaging effect on the heart. The inner lining of blood vessels are also damaged, which predisposes to atherosclerosis and subsequently heart attack. It not only affects blood vessels of the heart but also affects peripheral blood vessels. An important point about smoking is that it not only affects the person who chooses to smoke, but also affects the people around, which may include small children at home.
Diets rich in saturated fatty acids are particularly harmful to the heart and blood vessels. The excess fat deposits in the inner lining of the blood vessels. This predisposes to narrowing of the blood vessel and subsequent obstruction to the free flow of blood. Deep fried foods are particularly harmful; unfortunately, they are considered most tasty by a lot of individuals.
Lack of physical activity:
This is a common problem faced by both the young as well as the old. Blame it on either modern lifestyles or just a reluctance to move out of your comfortable couch! Computers and internet at workplaces have ensured that you don't have to walk around at all in office. Even shopping is done nowadays by sitting in one place. And our television just makes sure that we do not go out and play or exercise.
Excessive alcohol intake:
Like smoking, excessive alcohol also has its ill effects on the heart. It increases triglycerides, blood pressure and can cause heart failure.
Some of the changes that you could make or suggest to others of your community to keep the heart healthy are:
a) Restrict exposure to smoking: Exposure to smoking can be restricted in a number of ways such as:
Adopt a no-smoking policy at your home
Encourage your office management to adopt a no-smoking policy within the office premises
The government should ensure that cigarettes are not easily available especially to youngsters.
b) Adopt healthy eating practices. This can be made possible by adopting some of the following suggestions:
Buy only healthy foodstuff and do not bring junk food into the house. This will ensure that you are forced to snack only on healthy foods. Healthy foods do not always have to be bland and unpalatable. Look out for recipes that will make food healthy and yet tasty, and make you and your family yearn for more.
Salt is bad for the cardiovascular system. Therefore, avoid very salty foods like pickles. Do not make table salt available in the house. This will avoid adding excessive salt to food that already contains adequate amounts.
School and workplace canteens should make only healthy foods available.
c) Increase physical activity.
If you have a day off, take your children to the park or any activity center, where you can have a good time as well as be physically active. Limit the use of television in the house. This will force the children to go out of the house to entertain themselves. Even if you are too busy to exercise, it is not an excuse to remain physically inactive. Get up from your seat and take a regular walk around your office. Take the steps instead of the elevator.
Communities should also create adequate open spaces which are safe for children to play in.
In addition, it is also important to get a regular checkup done to determine your heart health and start early treatment if necessary to prevent further deterioration. The government should enact rules that will ensure that heart-unfriendly polices do not get enough support and the environment is conducive for people to follow heart-healthy practices.