As the international community marks World Heart Day tomorrow, there is growing anxiety over the escalating heart disease related deaths around the world. For instance, a joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Heart Federation and the University of Newcastle Australia reveal that an estimated 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease every year.
The report also warned that one in five of all deaths from heart disease is tobacco induced while urging all tobacco users to quit and avoid a heart attack.
According to medical experts, the heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. It also whisks away the waste products of metabolism.
A healthy lifestyle, especially when started at a young age, goes a long way to preventing cardiovascular diseases. Lifestyle changes and medications can nip heart-harming trends, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, in the bud before they cause damage. And a variety of medications, operations, and devices can help support the heart if damage occurs.
The experts also explain why it is important for a person to maintain a healthy heart over the years and added that taking care of the heart to avoid cardiovascular disease is critical, but that shouldn’t be the only motivator as there are many other reasons to proactively maintain a healthy heart.
Medical science dictates that a healthy heart moderates cholesterol and blood pressure. High cholesterol levels increase risk for developing cardiovascular disease, but that’s not all. cholesterol in the blood can also lead to heart attack and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Besides a heightened risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure, the person is also more likely to develop peripheral artery disease, angina, vision loss and kidney disease or failure.
It goes without saying that a Healthy heart reduces feelings of depression just as Cardiovascular disease can increase chances of feeling depressed as it is established that there is a connection between heart health and mental well being, but it goes beyond feelings of depression. Research shows that poor heart health is also associated with dementia.
When people don’t properly take care of their hearts – with smart lifestyle decisions – they’re narrowing their blood vessels, which then limits the amount of blood that can get to the brain. Without proper blood flow, the brain can’t work the way it’s supposed to and the person may have trouble making decisions, reasoning with others and remembering familiar faces and places.
Medical experts have advised that people should make smarter lifestyle choices, to protect the heart and reduce risk of developing life-threatening conditions. Making these small decisions can have a large impact on the health of the heart and overall well-being.
Other actions recommended include following a heart-healthy diet; regular exercise; avoiding smoking and smokers; regular check ups and more.
In Nigeria, citizens are expected to eat healthy diet. For this to happen there should be well-orchestrated enlightenment programmes and campaign driven by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), National Orientation Agency (NOA), the media, federal and state governments. It is also recommended that for a healthy heart there should be at least annual visit to the doctor by Nigerians, this again will require public enlightenment as most Nigerians hardly visit hospitals let alone meeting a doctor unless they are terribly sick. There should be sustained campaign for regular medical checkups and visits to doctors as well as recruitment of more doctors. This will reduce the patient/doctor ratio in Nigeria.
The NMA says there are only about 40,000 doctors in an estimated population of 200 million. The latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that Nigeria’s physician-to-patient ratio is four doctors per 10,000 patients and patients often wait hours to be attended to. Nigeria is still far from the recommendations of the World Health Organization on the required number of medical personnel to cater efficiently for its teeming population as the federal government disclosed recently that the ratio of doctor to patient ratio is 1: 2753 which translates to 36.6 per cent medical doctors per 100,000 persons.
Since smoking has been identified as a danger to a healthy heart, Nigerians and especially government at all levels must intensify anti-smoking campaign, while tobacco advertisement should be banned in all its ramifications. What World Heart Day is telling us is to keep our hearts healthy by avoiding life styles that pose threats to its health.