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World Heart Day: ‘Being good to your heart’

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World Heart Day poster with map. Vector illustration. EPS10

Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2021. 10:31 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: On the occasion of World Heart Day, the Caribbean public health agency, CARPHA, has advised on reducing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) by being good to your heart. CVDs are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease or ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, and other conditions.

“The biggest risk factors driving premature death and disability from CVDs are poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, and obesity. Although some risk factors for CVDs such as age or family history, cannot be controlled, CARPHA urges you to take responsibility for your health by making changes to reduce risk factors so as to improve your chances of leading a heart-healthy life. It is important to look after your heart by eating a healthy diet, not smoking, reducing the intake of alcohol, and being physically active,” stated Dr. Tamu Davidson, Head of the Chronic Disease and Injury Unit at CARPHA.

Not to mention, risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can make people more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with COVID-19. People with poor cardiovascular health and other NCDs are especially vulnerable to serious COVID-19 complications. If you have an underlying health condition, such as heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity, you are at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, and more likely to die from the virus. The best way to prevent infection with COVID-19 is to minimize exposure to the virus.

Through a project funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is developing a Regional NCD surveillance system. This will generate the health information needed for planning and implementation of interventions, including health policy, for NCD prevention and control. CARPHA in collaboration with the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) updated the Regional Guidelines for Diabetes Management in Primary Health Care and will be developing guidelines for hypertension.

“CARPHA continues to promote healthy diets and reduction of childhood obesity in the Caribbean. A cookbook Kids Can Cook Too for children, and guidance for Caribbean countries to implement a Model Framework for Sodium reduction are some of the tools available to support Caribbean countries. CARPHA has also been instrumental in supporting the development of policies and plans which form the framework for action for NCDs,” stated Dr. Davidson. These include the Caribbean Cooperation in Health Phase IV (CCH IV), and the Six Point Policy Package to reduce childhood obesity.

Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke account for 78 percent of all CVD deaths in all Latin America and Caribbean countries combined, and hypertensive deaths account for 8 percent. In Saint Lucia, Jamaica, and Dominica IHD deaths represent less than 35 percent, while stroke deaths contribute to 45 percent of all CVDs in Jamaica.

This year’s theme for World Heart Day, Use Heart to Connect, is about using your knowledge, compassion, and influence to make sure you, your loved ones, and the communities are part of, have the best chance to live heart-healthy lives.

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