THE world has experienced one of the worst pandemics in history over the last 20 months due to Covid-19. Millions of people have lost their lives because of this coronavirus.
However, according to the World Heart Federation, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the world’s number one killer, resulting in around 18,6 million deaths every year.
More than 520 million people living with CVD worldwide have a high risk of developing severe forms of the coronavirus, should they become infected with Covid-19.
The Federation says the healthcare crisis caused by Covid-19 has highlighted an urgent need to find innovative ways of connecting people to cardiovascular health interventions, particularly in low resource areas and communities.
Wednesday was World Heart Day. This year’s theme was ‘Use Heart to Connect’.
The theme is intended to encourage people to use their knowledge, compassion and influence to make sure their loved ones have the best chance of living heart-healthy lives.
“It’s about connecting with our own hearts, making sure we’re fuelling and nurturing them as best we can and using the power of digital to connect every heart everywhere,” the Federation said.
This involves using information communication technology to improve awareness, prevention and management of CVD globally. Telemedicine or telehealth has grown since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It now plays a major role in the remote provision of healthcare services.
Because they know they are vulnerable to serious illness should they become infected with Covid-19, many people with heart conditions are reluctant to visit their doctor, for fear they may become infected, despite the importance of regular reviews of their condition and medication. Their caution in avoiding contact with others can also leave them feeling isolated if they live alone.
Digital communication has provided channels that can be used for online consultations with a doctor and to provide information about heart disease, how to reduce the risk of heart disease through a healthy lifestyle and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle.
It also makes possible the formation of online support groups, in which people living with heart disease can support each other and share their own experiences. They can also communicate through social media with relatives and friends.
However, half the world’s population does not have internet connectivity. One of the objectives of this year’s World Heart Day is to highlight this inequality with a view to pointing out the difference that widespread internet connectivity and its use for the prevention, treatment and control of cardiovascular disease could make in reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Causes of CVD
Cardiovascular disease has many causes, which include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, an unhealthy diet and air pollution.
To prevent CVD, you need to look after your heart by eating a healthy diet, stoppingsmokingand having plenty of exercise.
If you have a diet high in salt, it is likely that your blood pressure could be high too, which means you have an increased risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke. Cut down by trying not to use any salt at all at the table and reducing how much you use in cooking.
Eat less sugar as too much sugar in your diet could lead to weight gain, which can raise your blood pressure and lead to diabetes and heart disease. If you have a sweet tooth and cannot give up sugar altogether, substitute with fresh fruit and yoghurt instead of sweetened cakes and biscuits.
Avoid food with saturated fat as eating too much saturated fat, especially that found in butter, margarine, fatty meats, dairy fats and processed foods such as pies, pastries and cakes, can increase cholesterol levels.
Switch to semi-skimmed milk and low-fat dairy foods instead of full-fat ones. You should also choose lean cuts of meat and steam or grill when cooking instead of frying.
Add more fish to your diet. Oily fish such as pilchards, sardines, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are particularly beneficial for your heart because they improve your cholesterol levels.
Increase the amount of potassium in your diet by eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Potassium can help to lower your blood pressure. The nutrients in fruits and vegetables, including vitamins, minerals and fibre, may also help to keep your heart healthy.
Some fruits and vegetables that are rich in soluble fibre may also help to lower your cholesterol, including citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, eggplant, mangoes and most beans.
If you smoke, quit smoking completely. Smoking is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with those who have never smoked.
Smoking not only damages the lining of your arteries but reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and raises your blood pressure.
Reduce your consumption of alcohol as it can affect your heart by causing high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and damage to the heart muscle.
You do not have to give it up completely. Stick to current guidelines for moderate alcohol drinking, which are two to three units a day for women and three to four for men.
Have an exercise schedule included in your daily life. Research has shown that people who arenot very active are more likely to have a heart attack than those who are.
Digital tools such as mobile phone apps and smart watches can help you become motivated and stay on track as they can monitor your activity round the clock and give you reminders if you have been inactive or not reached a target.
Maintain a medically recommended weight by using the Body Mass Index. If you are heavier than you should be, your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type two diabetes is elevated.
Do not forget about your mental health. Keep your stress under control. If you are under a lot of stress, you may be more likely to smoke, take little or no exercise and drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol. This can all lead to heart problems.
If you have an underlying health condition, such as heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity, donot let Covid-19 stop you from attending your regular check-ups.
Do not avoid or be afraid to requestemergencyservices if you need to. Medical professionals are there for you.They have Covid-19 precautions in place to ensure your safety. Make use too of telehealth for doctor consultations and digital channels for information and mutual support.
- The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. — email@example.com or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663.