Sunday, September 27, 2009

Preventive measures for heart disease

The World Heart Day was commemorated on Sunday with a view to encourage people around the globe to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of heart attacks which, together with strokes, kill over 17 million people every year.

To mark the occasion the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) arranged lectures by AKUH health professionals.

Speaking on the occasion, Professor Javaid Khan, Chair, National Alliance for Tobacco Control and Head, Section of Respiratory Diseases, AKUH said that about 80 per cent of deaths from cardiovascular diseases occur in low- and middle-income countries where awareness about heart attacks and strokes is poor.

Premature deaths can be avoided if the main risk factors - tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity - are controlled, he added.

In several developed countries, heart diseases are declining as governments have taken appropriate measures to control tobacco and promote a healthy diet. Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor not only for heart attack and stroke, but also for at least 30 other serious diseases, including lung cancer. Quoting a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Professor Khan said that the number of admissions for acute heart attack decreased in Scotland after the implementation of smoke-free legislation.

He called for implementation of clean air laws in Pakistan also in order to protect citizens from the serious dangers associated with tobacco smoke pollution.

Dr Fateh Ali Tipoo, Consultant Cardiologist, called for the government to focus on promoting preventive measures as treatment after a heart attack or stroke is unaffordable for the majority of citizens. High blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol and glucose, and smoking all increase a persons risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

One billion people globally suffer from high blood pressure, and 70 per cent of them do not have it under control. Emphasizing the importance of a balanced diet in preventing development of cardiovascular diseases, Dr Romaina Iqbal, Consultant Nutritionist, provided guidelines on intake of fruits, vegetables and milk and dairy products.

A healthy diet with five daily servings of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and pulses, and a restricted salt and sugar intake is recommended.

Ms Ghazal Kamran, Senior Physiotherapist pointed out that individuals with sedentary lifestyles who do not exercise have a 40 per cent higher risk of heart disease. She specially advised regular aerobic exercise to reduce such risk and detailed specific kinds of exercises for different age groups and for diabetic and other patients. Ms Khairunnisa Hooda, Nurse Manager Critical Care Areas and Cardiology spoke on promoting healthy habits in the workplace and that workplace wellness programmes can reach a significant proportion of employed adults up to 54 per cent of the world population.

This could include offering information about the risk factors for heart disease and stroke; establishing health policies such as no smoking in buildings; encouraging good eating habits, e.g. offering information about the calorie and fat content of canteen food, adding more whole grain meals, natural products, fruits and vegetables on the menu; and encouraging people to exercise during their breaks. A 2003 study on the economic return of workplace health promotion concluded that workplace programmes can achieve a 25 to 30 per cent reduction in medical and absenteeism costs in an average period of about 3.6 years.