30% of deaths each year caused by heart diseaseWednesday, September 29, 2021
BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
EACH year one in three local deaths are tied to cardiovascular or heart disease and, as the country acknowledges World Heart Day today, Jamaicans are being urged to not neglect their heart health.
This statistic from Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) is startling in light of the impact that COVID-19 has on people with at least one cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The HFJ stats also outlined that, so far, 51 per cent of people who have died from COVID-19 in Jamaica had pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.
World Heart Day is being celebrated under the theme 'Use Heart to Connect' and speaks to how health professionals can access patients and give patients access to them using digital platforms where possible.
The data also show that on average 33.8 per cent of Jamaicans have high blood pressure and 11.9 per cent are diabetic, increasing the risk of serious heart-related illnesses.
Ministry of Health and Wellness data also indicate that in 2016 there were a total of 18,373 deaths of which 6,189 or 33.7 per cent, were due to CVD. In 2017 there were 6,068 deaths due to CVD.
Consultant cardiologist Dr Marilyn Lawrence Wright told the Jamaica Observer that in the midst of this pandemic a lot of deaths mirror the high risk with which CVD patients are afflicted.
“If 51 per cent of patients who died from COVID-19 had a CVD risk factor, that just suggests that cardiovascular disease amplifies the severity of the impact of COVID-19 on our population,” Dr Lawrence Wright said.
“One in three every year is high. The fact is, this is a disease that can affect anyone — there is no real gender or age bias, per se. It needs to be taken seriously. Very often people think of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and the one we think about most is heart attack, but it's also heart failure as a disease that affects you when you're older. A lot of the younger ones don't think they need to think about that as an issue affecting them,” Dr Lawrence Wright said.
She also pointed out that the increase in overweight and obesity in younger people has accelerated the incidence of heart disease in the younger (below 50 years of age) population.
Subsequently, the cardiologist said the messages must be heeded by all, and regular routine screenings must be done.
“When you hear the message it's not just for your parents and grandparents, but it's also for younger people. With younger people getting COVID-19 and the sudden deaths we are seeing among those patients, we have to make sure that their cardiovascular health is as best as possible — and they're not going to know fully about their cardiovascular health unless they get screened,” she said.
“People know about hypertension and some symptoms for diabetes, but there are people who have these conditions and have no symptoms, so you have to screen. If you don't know you have it, it is likely not going to be controlled,” the doctor added.
Moreover, she said unless you're being properly screened for hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol, the first symptom might be a heart attack, a stroke, or sudden death.
The cardiologist also encouraged people to adopt healthier diets and pay attention to portion sizes.
“Bake and broil and avoid frying. With starch, choose ground provisions over rice and try to get your five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables. Watch your portion size as well. Even if you're eating healthy, if your calorie intake is high, you will put on weight,” she said.
Dr Lawrence Wright acknowledged that healthy eating is expensive and said that is a reason CVDs are tied to poor economic conditions.
She, however, encouraged people to do the best they can to stay healthy.
“It is recommended that 150 minutes of exercise or increased activity per week be done per week. While we encourage exercise, we also encourage people to find more ways to be active in the day. A sedentary lifestyle on its own, even in the absence of obesity, is a risk factor for CVD,” Dr Lawrence Wright said.