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Simple lifestyle stressed to avert heart disease

September 29, 2011

KARACHI, Sept 29: Experts in cardiology and relevant fields said at a seminar here on Thursday that heart ailments and related fatalities could be prevented by enhancing awareness of risks among individuals of all ages.

The situation pertaining to the non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including hypertension and heart ailments, suggests that Pakistanis should at the minimum encourage healthy lifestyle choices, keep themselves physically active and eat a heart-healthy diet. Almost half of the NCD deaths were of people suffering from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), they said.

The Karachi chapter of the Pakistan Cardiac Society organised the awareness programme to observe World Heart Day, which falls on Sept 29. The PCS’s local coordinator, Prof Khalida Soomro, said WHD had been observed in the city since 2002 as cardiologists in the city recognised the urgency to prioritise the prevention and control of the CVDs together with other non-communicable diseases, including cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Senior cardiologist and secretary of the PCS Prof Khan Shahzaman discussed the status of the CVDs in the country and said lifestyle mattered a lot. A majority of the country’s 18 million people were unwilling to be physically active, he added.

He said by 2020 NCDs would account for 73 per cent of the deaths, of which 50pc would be of CVD-suffering people. About 60 per cent of the diseases by 2020 would pertain to CVDs, he said, adding that the country needed frequent programmes for public awareness.

He also referred to the findings of a national survey undertaken some years back and said that about 5.5 million people in the country suffered from high blood pressure. Pakistan, he said, was among the top 10 countries where a high number of people lived with diabetes.

“We must work on primary prevention and treatment strategies involving schoolchildren,” he said, adding that children were also becoming obese, which was not good from the point of view of heart health, while people of ages ranging between 30 and 35 had also started reporting with heart diseases.

Dr Zsuzana Fajcsak, a consultant at the Dow University of Health Sciences, said between 7pc and 49pc of the now obese children would grow into obese adults in the years to come. Apart from the hereditary causes behind low cardiac fitness, overeating and excessive consumption of fat, low-fat, high glycemic index foods might also cause heart diseases and as such the management of obesity or having a balanced meal was a first and simple approach to avert CVDs, she added.

Dr Nageeb Basir said that one in seven urban adults over 15 years was obese or overweight, which ultimately paved the way for hypertension and diabetes. He discussed the body mass index (BMI) and stressed the need for visiting a healthcare professional for the measurement of blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose, together with waist-to-hip ratio and BMI.

Dr Khalid Khawar said that deaths in 90 per cent of CVD patients could be delayed if they managed their psychological and social factors on time.

Citing the stress factor as one of the reasons behind heart and other diseases, the doctor said it could be reduced once the people prepared themselves for a change and to reduce their expectations from others, set realistic targets, plan their days, have time to unwind and learn to enjoy life.

Dr Amir Hamid Khan highlighted the adverse effects of smoking on human health, including the heart, while and Dr Faiza Khan gave dietary tips.

Later, a panel of senior physicians, including Prof Hamid Shafqat, Prof Azhar Masood Farooqui, Prof Ejaz Vohra, Dr Zaman Sheikh, Prof Shahzaman and others answered questions asked by participants.

Senior writer Fatima Surayya (Bajia), Anwar Maqsood and former adviser to the Sindh chief minister Sharmila Farooqui also spoke.