In today’s bustling world, we often neglect health in the pursuit of success, and iT easy to forget about the silent sentinel within us, our heart. Our heart tirelessly pumps life through our veins, and yet, we often overlook its needs and vulnerabilities.
This is where the significance of World Heart Day 2023 comes into play, with its theme, “Use Heart, Know Heart”. Here, we explore the importance of understanding heart diseases, how they occur, and the preventive measures we can take to keep this vital organ in top shape.
The idea of having a global day specifically focus on heart health was introduced in 1999 by Antoni Baie de Luna, President of the World Health Federation (1997-1999), in collaboration with the World Health Organization. Luna conceived the idea for this annual event looking at how cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the most common cause of death globally.
CVDs have long been a global health concern, and India is no exception. Dr Sumanta Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Interventional Cardiology at AMRI Hospital Dhakuria, aptly points out that knowledge is the first line of defence against any disease. “When we know about a disease, we will be able to prevent it in a better manner,” he emphasizes.
CVDs have become a silent epidemic in India, as shocking statistics reveal that approximately one-third of the population under the age of 70 is susceptible to cardiovascular diseases. This statistic is staggering and emphasizes the urgent need for awareness and preventive measures.
One of the primary reasons behind the high prevalence of heart diseases in India is the lack of awareness. Most people are still unaware of the sinister nature of these diseases and the factors that contribute to them. Ignorance often leads to negligence, which can prove fatal when it comes to heart health.
Understanding the enemy is crucial in any battle, and it's no different when it comes to heart diseases. Several risk factors contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases, and recognizing them is the first step towards prevention. Major factors that affect cardiovascular diseases are:
Smoking: Smoking is a major contributor to heart diseases. The harmful chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart and blood vessels, leading to the narrowing of arteries and an increased risk of heart attacks
Alcohol Intake: Consumption of alcohol, even in moderate measures, lead to high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and irregular heartbeats
Unhealthy Diet: A diet high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and sugar can raise the risk of heart diseases. It can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for CVDs
Lack of Sleep: Inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality can contribute to heart problems. Sleep is crucial for the body's repair and maintenance processes, including heart health
Stress: Chronic stress can take a toll on the heart. It can lead to behaviours like overeating, smoking, or excessive drinking, all of which can harm the heart One of the essential aspects of heart disease prevention is to understand and monitor key health parameters. Dr Chatterjee stresses on the importance of “knowing your numbers” related to the normal levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Blood Pressure: High blood pressure (hypertension) is a silent killer. Regular monitoring of your blood pressure is crucial to detect any abnormalities early. Elevated blood pressure can damage the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease
Blood Sugar: Diabetes, characterized by high blood sugar levels, significantly increases the risk of heart diseases. Regular blood sugar monitoring and management are essential for heart health
Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, can lead to build-up of plaque in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Monitoring cholesterol levels, besides making dietary and lifestyle adjustments as needed, is vital Now that we’ve identified the risk factors and emphasized on the importance of monitoring key health parameters, it’s time to explore the preventive measures we can adopt to protect our hearts.
Quit Smoking: If you smoke, quitting is the single most important step you can take to improve heart health. Seek support from healthcare professionals or smoking cessation programmes if needed
Moderate Alcohol Consumption: If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Limiting alcohol intake can reduce the risk of heart problems
Healthy Diet: Adopt a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Reduce your intake of saturated and trans-fats, salt, and added sugars, mostly found in packaged & processed food items, soft drinks, etc Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and strengthen the heart
Stress Management: Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or pursuing hobbies like singing and listening to music. Adequate sleep and maintaining a work-life balance are also essential for stress reduction Medication and Treatment: For individuals with existing risk factors or heart conditions, adhering to prescribed medications and treatment plans is crucial. Regular check-ups with healthcare providers can help monitor progress
Education and Awareness: World Heart Day plays a pivotal role in raising awareness about heart diseases. Use this opportunity to educate yourself and others about heart health and the importance of prevention
As we celebrate World Heart Day 2023 on 29 th September, underscored by the theme “Use Heart, Know Heart”, let’s remember that our heart is not just an organ but the very essence of our existence. It the engine that keeps us alive, and taking care of it should be a top priority. Understanding the risks, monitoring key health parameters, and adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Let’s not wait until our heart sends us distress signals; let’s use our hearts wisely and know them intimately. By doing so, we can ensure a healthier and happier life, not just for ourselves but for future generations as well. This World Heart Day, let’s commit to making heart health a priority and spreading awareness about the significance of “using our hearts” and “knowing our hearts”.
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