LAHORE: Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause. An estimated 17.7 million people died from CVDs last year, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million due to stroke. The deaths by cardiovascular diseases in Pakistan have reached about 200,000 per year.
To decrease the mammoth burden of heart disease in Pakistan, there is a dire need to create more awareness and understanding among the general public on primary prevention of heart related issues,” said Dr. Azhar Awan, Consultant Cardiologist of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre SKMCH&RC, while talking to a group of journalists visiting the hospital. He said that according to World Health Organization, people in low and middle-income countries are affected most and account for 80% of CVDs deaths.
Dr. Azhar said that “important prevalent risk factors for CVDs are physical inactivity, high obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, unhealthy diet, smoking and alcohol consumptions. Other determinants of CVDs include poverty, stress and hereditary factors. It is alarming that around 33% of Pakistani population above the age of 45 has hypertension. It is also not true that it can only affect men; one third of women also die from heart disease every year however, many remain unaware of their risk and the necessary steps needed to reduce this risk.”
He further said that, “more often heart disease symptoms are insidious and not always classic, at times unexplained fatigue and getting breathless on minimal exertion could be a sign of underlying heart problems. Sometimes, most people don’t take their symptoms seriously and it is also our natural tendency to not act on them in the hope that they will just go away, which could be dangerous.” He also talked about protecting heart health by adopting healthy lifestyle. “To engage in physical activity or brisk walk for at least 30 minutes, three to five times/ week is beneficial to help reduce heart attacks and strokes. Eating fruit, fish, nuts, vegetables, healthy oils, and limiting salt also helps to prevent CVDs. One should avoid unhealthy drinks, butter and margarine for better heart health” he said.
Talking about heart related services at SKMCH&RC Dr. Azhar informs that “Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital is well equipped for diagnostic of CVDs having 2D echo, transesophageal echo, exercise stress testing, coronary CT and MIBI scans.
In his message to the public, Dr. Azhar was of the view that “other institutions and communities should create more awareness among public about CVD and its preventive measures. Comprehensive tobacco control policies should also be built and implemented across the country along with measures to encourage masses in joining healthy physical activities such as exercise and sports. If one observers any symptom of heart disease, they immediately consult their doctor and start taking prescribed medication along with preventive measures.