World Heart Day – September 29, 2023
According to the World Heart Federation:
- 1 in 3 CVD deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age.
- More people die from CVD worldwide than from any other cause: over 18.6 million every year.
- 85% of CVD deaths are due to heart attack and stroke.
This year’s theme for World Heart Day is Use Heart, Know Heart. This day is a reminder to everyone around the world to take care of their hearts. The campaign focuses on the essential step of knowing our hearts first. Because we love and protect only what we know. In a world where knowledge about heart health is limited and policies are insufficient or lacking, we aim to shatter barriers and empower individuals to take control of their well-being. Because when we know more, we can take better care.
What is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)?
CVD is a class of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels (veins and arteries). It can be caused by a combination of socio-economic, behavioral, and environmental risk factors, including high blood pressure, unhealthy diet, high cholesterol, diabetes, air pollution, obesity, tobacco use, kidney disease, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and stress. Family history, ethnic background, sex, and age can also affect a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are many risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. Some risk factors, like family history, cannot be modified, while other risk factors, like high blood pressure, can be modified through lifestyle interventions and treatment. Millions of people worldwide struggle to control the risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease, and many others remain unaware that they are at high risk.
You will not necessarily develop cardiovascular disease if you have a risk factor. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, unless you take action and work to prevent your risk factors compromising your heart health.
What can you do to lower your risk of Cardiovascular Disease?
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet. A healthy diet should include a wide variety of unprocessed and fresh foods, including plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions every day), whole grains, nuts and foods low in saturated fats, sugars and salt. Be wary of processed foods, which often contain high levels of salt, and drink lots of water!
- Exercise regularly. It only takes 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, five days a week, to improve and maintain your health. Adults (aged 18-65) and seniors (65+) should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity, every week. Children and adolescents should do at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every day.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Lowering your risk of overweight and obesity normally involves reducing the number of calories consumed from fats and sugars, increasing the portion of daily intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and exercising regularly. At least 60 minutes of exercise most days a week will help you maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid tobacco use. If you stop smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease will be halved within a year and will return to a normal level over time. Avoid smoke-filled environments: exposure to second-hand smoke significantly increases the risk of heart attack. All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. If you’re having trouble quitting tobacco, talk to your doctor about developing a tailored plan to suit your needs.
- Avoid alcohol. There is no safe level for drinking alcohol, and the detrimental effects of alcohol far outweigh any potential protective benefits. While drinking less may reduce your risk of CVD, evidence shows that the ideal situation for health is to not drink at all. Even moderate drinkers notice health benefits when they stop drinking alcohol.
- Manage stress. Stress can cause the arteries to tighten, which can increase the risk of heart disease, especially in women. Exercising, deep breathing, relaxing your muscles and making time for the things you love are some things you can do to help manage your stress levels. If things are starting to feel out of hand, don’t be afraid to talk to someone or seek professional help.
- Know your numbers. Knowing your numbers is an important part of keeping your heart healthy. Checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels on a regular basis is important to help determine and control your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Take your medication as prescribed. If you have a higher risk of developing heart disease or stroke, you may need to take medication to reduce your risk. These can include statins to lower blood cholesterol levels, low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots, insulin for diabetes and tablets to reduce blood pressure. Take the medication that your doctor has prescribed and make sure you stick to your regiment.
- Know the warning signs. The sooner assistance is sought, the greater the chances of a full recovery.