Heart diseases: 10 things you need to know to prevent it-A A +A
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
FEBRUARY is traditionally the month of hearts, yet unfortunately, not so many are aware of the magnitude of the factors that cause heart diseases.
Medical science literature explains that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or diseases of the heart and its accompanying blood vessels such as the arteries and veins remain the biggest cause of deaths worldwide, with most of its affected individuals coming from low and middle-income countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) supports that CVD causes 12 million deaths annually worldwide.
In the official webpage of the Philippine Department of Health (DOH), it claims that diseases of the heart remain one among the many causes of sickness and even deaths among Filipinos.
The DOH epidemiologic data reveal that in a five-year average of disease surveillance from 2000 to 2005, heart diseases ranked seventh among the top 10 leading causes of sickness and ranked first among the leading causes of deaths among Filipinos, with 83,000 reported cases.
Health experts, particularly cardiologists or physicians who specialize in heart diseases, believe that high blood cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, stress, advancing age and alcohol are some of the contributing factors for the development of heart problems such as heart attack or heart failure.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following measures to prevent heart problems:
(1) Eat a healthy diet. Experts suggest that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits instead of food that are high in salt and fats can help you avoid heart problems and complications related to it;
(2) Maintain a healthy weight. According to nutritionists, doctors calculate the so-called “body mass index” to determine whether a person’s weight is within healthy range. They may also use waist and hip measurements to determine the amount of excess body fats. The closer you are to your ideal body weight, the lesser the chances you will develop heart diseases;
(3) Exercise regularly. A 30-minute per week moderate-intensity exercise is enough to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and help maintain your ideal body weight, said health experts;
(4) Do not smoke. A great number of social and medical studies have established the link between smoking and heart problems. Experts suggest that if you do not smoke, don’t get started and if you smoke learn ways of quitting by consulting with a medical doctor who could suggest ways of ending the bad habit;
(5) Limit alcohol use. According to health professionals, alcohol in excessive amounts can increase a person’s blood pressure and overtime may become a burden that is deleterious for the heart;
(6) Have your cholesterol checked. Experts recommend that if you have someone in the family who has had heart diseases or you are at risk due to your unhealthy lifestyle, have your cholesterol checked at least once in every five years;
(7) Monitor your blood pressure;
(8) Manage diabetes. If you have diabetes, make sure to stick to the prescribed regimen by your diabetologist;
(9) Take medications as prescribed. If you are taking a prescribed medication for your blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol, take it as prescribed. If you do not understand how to take it as it may not be in tablet or oral forms, have your doctor or a health professional explain it for you; and lastly, although not part of CDC’s enumerated recommendation is (10) Behavior modification.
Being a health professional and a sociologist at the same time, I have observed that although genetics play a major role in the development of heart problems, there is also the behavioral aspect that is responsible for its development. Such behaviors -- which may include but are not limited to vices (alcohol and smoking), sedentary living, unhealthy eating habits and non-compliance to the prescribed therapeutic regimen by the physician -- could also help explain why more Filipinos acquire heart problems.
The American Heart Association has stated in 2005 that if CVD were eliminated, life expectancy would increase by almost seven years.
It has been deeply embedded in our Filipino culture to observe the month of February as the love month but I do hope it also becomes our practice to observe it side-by-side with a heightened awareness of heart disease prevention.
If we consciously direct our behavior to healthful habits, then we may produce a healthy culture literally and figuratively.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 21, 2012.