Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs, such as heart attacks and brain strokes) are a group of disorders of the heart and brain blood vessels. CVDs are the number one cause of death worldwide.
According to the World Heart Federation, an estimated 17.7 million people die from CVDs every year worldwide. CVDs also account for 31% of all deaths, and among the people aged 30 to 70, 1 in 10 die from CVD.
These figures call for the need to be aware of CVD so that people of all ages may take measures to minimise their risks of having the common yet deadly disease.
Though these diseases are fatal, the conditions are preventable. In many countries, CVDs have fallen to the tune of a 40% lower-than-usual prevalence rate, by increasing the awareness, adopting life style modifications, and using advanced medical treatment.
The world will observe World Heart Day tomorrow by raising awareness, and for Bangladesh, one of the most populous countries in the world. taking measures from the individual level to government levels is essential because at least three-quarters of the world’s deaths from CVDs occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Knowing your enemy
There are six different kinds of CVDs: Coronary heart disease (disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle); cerebrovascular disease (disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain); peripheral arterial disease (disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs); rheumatic heart disease (damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacterial sore throat); congenital heart disease (malformations of heart structure existing at birth); and deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the leg veins, which can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs).
Heart attacks and strokes are mainly caused by a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart or brain. The most common reason for this is a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the blood vessels that supply the heart or brain.
The most common risk factors that often lead to CVDs are smoking, unhealthy diet, inactivity, and high blood pressure.
In Bangladesh, CVDs are among the top reasons of death, especially in urban areas. A recent research suggested that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for an estimated 59% (886,000) of all deaths in Bangladesh, and CVDs account for 18% (159,480) of all deaths caused by NCDs.
This World Heart Day, let us commit to work together to keep ourselves and our loved ones from CVDs
The risks are higher in the urban areas because the factors mentioned are becoming more integrated everyday into the highly demanding urban lifestyles.
In addition, rural populations are also indulging in sedentary habits by not getting adequate physical activity, forgoing walking in favour of rickshaws, vans, electric scooters, buses etc due to development in the rural areas.
Though the prevalence of smoking has fallen among the educated and older urban population, smoking and the use of tobacco have disproportionately increased among the young urban and rural populations, reflected in higher overall sales of tobacco, cigarettes, and bidis.
Bangladesh is considered as an emerging economic tiger, mainly due to the consistently healthy economic growth rate over the last few years.
Every year, millions of people graduate from lower to higher income group.
The urban areas are becoming more packed, pollution is at a higher level than ever before, and people often have to work long hours to improve their lives, which can lead to unhealthy diets and an inadequate work-life balance.
If this trend picks up, the risk of more Bangladeshis developing CVDs will be greater than ever before.
Minimising the risk
However, there are ways to minimise the risks of being affected by CVDs. On an individual level: Greater physical activity (jogging, sports, gym, etc), eating less fast food while maintaining five portions of fruits and vegetables every day, staying away from smoking, and regularly checking blood pressure levels are some of the ways one can follow to decrease his or her chances of developing the disease.
One must also be aware of the symptoms of heart attacks and strokes from a medical professional. One can also use digital health care services like Tonic to stay up-to-date with information regarding CVDs and how to effectively minimise the risks of having it.
The public and private sectors can also help. The government can play its part by imposing comprehensive tobacco control policies, increasing taxes on food items that are high in fat, sugar, and salt, encouraging more walking and cycling while building roads and pathways to facilitate that, and so on.
The private sectors should work independently and in collaboration with the public sector on campaigns to raise awareness on the issue and educate people about CVDs in all corners of the country.
In the age of digitalisation, when more people all over Bangladesh are connected to the internet and use smart-phones, reaching people with the necessary information is only a matter of proper strategy and smart effort.
This World Heart Day, let us commit to work together to keep ourselves and our loved ones from CVDs.
Extensive research has been and is being conducted on the issue, with state-of-the art treatments available right here in Bangladesh. A vast array of information is available online.
Let us educate ourselves, so that we may help each other stay safe and healthy.
Dr KMHS Sirajul Haque is a Professor of Cardiology, Anwer Khan Modern Medical College Hospital and associated with Tonic by Telenor Health and Grameenphone.