Take care of your heart to prevent dysfunction, disability and death
YOUR HEART works every second of the day to keep you alive! Prevention and early detection of heart disease and the associated risk factors (like obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes) are, therefore, essential to help keep your heart in good health.
Heart disease consists of a range of health conditions that affect the heart. It includes problems with your heart rhythm or pulse (arrhythmias), weakness or ineffective pumping of the heart muscle (heart failure, cardiomyopathy), narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply the heart (ischaemic heart disease, heart attack), and defects of the heart walls and valves, among other conditions.
The hardening, narrowing and blockage of blood vessels over time (a process called “atherosclerosis”) is the commonest cause of diseases of the heart and blood vessels – known as cardiovascular disease (CVD) – which include ischaemic heart disease (angina), myocardial infarction (heart attack) and heart failure.
Children may also have a heart defect from birth (hole in the heart) or develop rheumatic heart disease when they get older due to inflammatory damage to heart valves.
According to Dr Julia Rowe-Porter, medical epidemiologist in the Non-Communicable Disease and Injury Prevention Unit at the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), the heart is such a vital organ that we need to ensure that is in good working order and, where possible, prevent the development of heart disease that may cause severe dysfunction, disability and death.
“Many types of heart disease may cause irreversible damage and treatment is often expensive and lifelong, with significant costs on individuals and their families and an additional burden of the health sector to provide services and care for persons living with heart disease,” Rowe-Porter said.
Lifestyle changes are key to preventing and reducing the chances of getting heart disease, especially cardiovascular disease. These include eating a healthy, balanced diet, becoming more physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, give up smoking, reduce your alcohol consumption, keep your blood pressure, blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and blood glucose under control, manage stress and get adequate rest.
Additionally, the status of your heart should be checked regularly along with your blood pressure, heart rate, body mass index (BMI, a measurement to determine excess weight for your height) and investigations recommended by your healthcare provider.
The status of your heart should be checked along with your blood pressure, heart rate, BMI and investigations recommended by your healthcare provider. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels, the heart and other major organs in the body.
Early detection and control of diabetes are, therefore, important in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. High levels of fat in the blood (cholesterol and triglycerides) contribute to hardening and narrowing of blood vessels, leading to poor blood circulation to major organs in the body, including the heart. This increases your chances of having heart attacks and strokes.
“This Thursday, as we commemorate World Heart Day 2022, remember to put your heart into loving yourself by practising healthy lifestyle choices that improve your heart health. Spread the love by sharing your heart health journey with your family, friends, schoolmates, co-workers and others in your community. Together, we can make the difference,” Rowe-Porter urged.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the commonest manifestation of heart disease and is the leading cause of death in Jamaica, accounting for a third (33.7 per cent) of all deaths in 2016 (RGD 2016). Many of these deaths occur in persons under 70 years of age (“premature deaths”) who are still in their productive years of life and many have jobs and families that depend on them.
A significant proportion of the national health budget is spent on the care of persons with non-communicable diseases, like CVD, who require long-term treatment, care and support, as well as hospitalisation for complications and severe diseases such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
The MOHW is reminding you to give your heart some love by living a healthy lifestyle and getting your check-ups, because a healthy heart gives you a chance to LIVE Longer & LOVE Stronger. The theme for this year’s activities is ‘Use (Heart) For Every Heart’. So, make it a family affair... eat healthy, get physically active, manage stress and mental well-being, together.
RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE
Findings from the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (JHLS) III (2016-2017) among Jamaicans 15 years or older
• High Blood Pressure: About one in three Jamaicans have hypertension (34 per cent). Hypertension rates are 25 per cent higher than 10 years ago and 50 per cent higher than almost 20 years ago
• Diabetes: About one in eight Jamaicans have diabetes (12 per cent),
Diabetes rates are 25 per cent higher than they were 10 years ago
• High Cholesterol: More than one in 10 Jamaicans already had high cholesterol over 10 years ago (JHLSII, 2007-2008)
• Obesity: More than half of Jamaicans are overweight or obese
• Two out of every three women are overweight or obese
• More than 80 per cent of Jamaicans do not exercise enough
• One in three Jamaicans consume sugary drinks every day
• More than 60 per cent of Jamaicans do not consume sufficient vegetables
• More than 70 per cent of Jamaicans do not consume sufficient fruits
• Smoking: 15 out of every 100 Jamaicans smoke; more than one in four men smoke
SOURCE: Ministry of Health and Wellness