“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the world, killing 17.5 million people a year”
Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve
narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack,
chest pain (angina), or stroke. According to the Global Atlas on
cardiovascular disease prevention and stroke, over 17.5 million
deaths occur each year due to cardiovascular disease. 7.3 million
of these are from ischaemic heart disease and 6.2 million from
There are some factors which cannot be modified. These include:
The risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55.
As a man you are at greater risk of heart disease than a premenopausal
woman. Once past the menopause stage, a woman’s
risk is similar to a man’s. Risk of stroke is similar for men and
People with African or Asian ancestry are at higher risks of
developing cardiovascular disease than other racial groups.
Being poor increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. A
chronically stressful life, social isolation, anxiety and depression,
also increase the risk.
However, there are other risk factors which can be modified.
Small lifestyle changes can make a powerful difference to our
cardiovascular health: 30 minutes of activity a day, giving up
smoking and eating a healthy diet can help prevent such disease.
Physical activity enhances health and the chances of a better
quality of life. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five
times per week reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It
is important to set realistic goals. Building up levels of activity
gradually will seem less overwhelming and is safer than trying
to run a marathon on the first go. Think how you can fit physical
activity into your daily lifestyle; use the stairs instead of taking the
lift, walk or cycle instead of driving, park some distance away from
your destination or stop one bus stop earlier and walk that extra
distance. Take up a form of physical activity which suits you best
such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing, aerobics,
or zumba. Some evidence shows that monitoring your physical
activity can help. Therefore, make use of an exercise application
on your smart phone or use a pedometer to keep track of your
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
A healthy diet which is rich in fruit and vegetables helps prevent
cardiovascular disease. Some tips are:
• Swap cakes and other sweets for alternative sweet treats
such as fruits.
• Avoid adding salt to food or during its preparation.
• Avoid trans and saturated fats. Choose good fats found in olive
oil, sunflower seed and nuts, tuna, salmon, and sardines.
• Eat complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, pasta,rise, and legumes.
• Cut down on sugary beverages and fruit juices and opt for
mineral water instead.
• Include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, as these
are high in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.
• Keep the amount of alcohol you drink within recommended
• Try to limit processed and pre-packaged foods that are
often high in salt, sugar, and fat
• Make your own healthy school or work lunches at home.
• Use smaller plates and follow guidelines for portion sizes.
If you are overweight or obese, or you have been yo-yoing
with your weight over some time, seek support. The Health
Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate offers free
weight management programmes.
SAY “NO” TO TOBACCO
One in every two smokers will eventually die of tobacco related
diseases. Second-hand smoke (tobacco smoke
inhaled by non-smokers) kills more than 600,000 nonsmokers
world-wide every year – including children.
Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke reduces
risk of cardiovascular disease. Quitting is the single best
thing you do to improve your heart’s health.
• Within two years of quitting, the risk of coronary heart
disease is substantially reduced.
• Within 15 years, the risk of cardiovascular disease returns
to that of a non-smoker.
• Exposure to second-hand smoke is also a cause of
disease in non-smokers.
• It is crucial to ban smoking in your home and car to
protect your family. Quit smoking or at least smoke
outside until you quit the habit.
• Educate children on the dangers of tobacco use.
• If you are finding it hard to stop smoking, ask your
healthcare professional for advice or consider attending
a smoking-cessation support organised by the Health
Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate.
KNOW YOUR RISKS
By taking the steps above, you and your family can reduce
the burden of heart disease and stroke. It is important to
keep a regular check on your heart health.
• Visit your doctor who can measure your blood pressure,
cholesterol and glucose levels, waist circumference, and
Body Mass Index.
• Speak with your doctor to develop a specific plan of
action to reduce the risk factors and to improve your
For more information contact the Health Promotion and
Disease Prevention Directorate on [email protected] or call
DR CHARMAINE GAUCI
© 2018 – VIDA Magazine