ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan on Thursday said that over the years heart diseases have been observed in an age group that was once considered perfectly healthy.

While speaking to participants of a seminar, “Health and Economic Consequences of Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSB) in Pakistan” organised by Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah), he said that heart diseases were continuously increasing in developing countries.

“Heart diseases are directly related to diabetes and obesity. Doctors who have been practicing for a few decades will agree with me that over the years heart attacks and diseases have become common in young people. One of the reasons is use of tobacco and the other is sweetened beverages. We need to discourage sweet beverages as we have reduced physical activities,” he said.

Dr Sultan said that sugar beverages were marketed very smartly and were leading to diseases.

“There are 33 million diabetics in Pakistan and the treatment for the disease or diabetes-related diseases is very costly. We need to give awareness to the masses and also share the experiences of other countries with them,” he said.

While sharing the experience of United Arab Emirates, he said that taxation can reduce the intake of sugary drinks.

“We have been working on a bill which will play a role in reducing the intake of sugary drinks,” he said.

Dr Sultan said the ministry will play its role in addressing the issue of obesity besides creating opportunities for people to live an active life.

Panah President retired Maj Gen Masoodur Rehman Kiani said that the association was striving to play its role in keeping people healthy. Everyone should stay away from diseases and for it they should avoid foods that are harmful for health.

Panah General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman urged the government to consider the factors that posed a serious threat to the health of young children and mothers.

Director Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology Prof Abdul Basit said that the rise in obesity and diabetes in Pakistan was a matter of concern.

The number of people living with diabetes has risen to 33 million, with evidence suggesting that reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods and soft drinks was an effective way to reduce obesity and related non-communicable diseases.

Demand for increasing taxes

The Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan (CTC) has urged the government to raise taxes on cigarettes in the next budget as smoking is causing health hazards and increasing health expenditures in Pakistan.

Zeeshan Danish, national coordinator for the CTC, in a statement said raising the price of tobacco products through an increase in taxes was the most effective way to reduce tobacco use.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2022

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