Maintaining a healthy heart is the best way to avoid life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke which are among the most lethal killer diseases in the WHO South-East Asia Region.
These and other cardiovascular diseases account for a sizeable proportion of the 8.5 million people in the region dying of non-communicable diseases every year, many of them prematurely. On World Heart Day and beyond, increasing heart health and diminishing the risk of disease should be priority for all of us.
There are a few key habits individuals can cultivate which include:
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol consumption
- Eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day
- Limiting salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day is likewise critical to lowering blood pressure and mitigating the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- These measures should be complemented by engaging in moderate intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
At the same time, governments can promote heart health and diminish the disease burden in a number of ways like:
- By building public infrastructure such as parks and cycle ways
- Governments can facilitate greater physical activity awareness to promote healthy lifestyle, health literacy and aid health-related decision-making.
- Governments can also forge partnerships with non-health sector organizations – including businesses and civil society – to promote tobacco control, diminish alcohol use, and limit the consumption of processed foods and foods with high trans-fat and salt.
Within the health sector, one of the most important interventions governments can make is it can provide screening and health counseling services at the primary health care levels. This initiative will not only give people a better shot of avoiding cardiovascular diseases in the first place, but it also means that if and when conditions occur they can be managed before severe complications arise.
Countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region reiterated their commitment to take action against non-communicable diseases by adopting the Colombo Declaration earlier this month.
The Declaration calls for concerted region-wide action to reverse the rising burden of cardiovascular disease among other non-communicable diseases, placing particular emphasis on the primary health care approach, as well as other non-health sector initiatives.
As, public awareness and public policy align, people across the region will have the best chance possible of maintaining a healthy heart and living a longer, happier life. To achieve this goal, it is a responsibility of individuals, communities, and the health & non-health sectors to embrace and strive for it.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh,
Regional Director, South-East Asia, WHO