29th September of every year is world heart day – a day that people worldwide have commemorated since 2012. It is the day that acts as a reminder to the global community about the disastrous effects of heart disease and stroke. It’s the day that we converge in whatever capacity to envision a world of plummeted premature deaths due to heart disease and stroke through discussions that deliberate to enlighten the masses about the nitty-gritty associated with cardiovascular disease. As the world industrialisation has continued to flourish, so have its inhabitants – the lifestyle changes that we have adopted have continually rendered our bodies vulnerable to their negative consequences. It’s thus, rather prudent that we rigorously modify our living to abate the ever-increasing number of deaths from heart disease and stroke. And we all have a role to play.
Heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke are among the top ten global causes of death: it isn’t by coincidence. The world has continuously preferred binge alcohol consumption, a diet rich in high saturated fats, limited to no physical exercises – eventually leading to weight gain culminating in obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Annually, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke inclusive) is responsible for nearly 17.9 million lives. Available data shows that heart attack contributes to at least 4% of deaths in Uganda. For a disease spectrum that is almost entirely preventable, it is incumbent upon us that we understand the risk factors and work towards controlling them to abate premature deaths from heart disease and stroke. Data shows that if people refrain from tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity, such premature deaths can plummet by 80%.
Besides genetic risk factors, all others are modifiable, i.e., we can change the disease course by improving how we live. Stop alcohol consumption, devour a healthy meal – moderate carbohydrates, vegetables with more healthy oils than fats, less red meat, and dairy and poultry products in modest quantities. And increase the levels of physical activity.
World heart day is here for us to indulge in the endeavours that will enable us to take charge of our heart health. We all have a role to play. The policymakers must improve the health care system to allow people with cardiovascular diseases to access emergency care whenever the need arises – especially during a heart attack, heart failure, and hypertension. The health care workers must educate the masses about the symptoms of heart disease and how to recognise them. For myocardial infarction, education should entail the medications that may save people during the crisis, such as cardiac aspirin and nitroglycerin. It is prudent that the community understands the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and how to prevent them. Various communities in resource-limited settings think that sudden death is sorcery and witchcraft. Such unacceptable levels of ignorance must be addressed and reversed through continuous community awareness through health campaigns beyond world heart day.
With such deliberations, the dream of a world where health is a vital component of health justice and a fundamental human right will be a reality.
Take charge of your life. We all have a role to play in matters that pertain to healthy living.