"We want to stop people dying at an early age, prematurely and painfully, from a preventable condition" - Dr Robert Beaglehole, Public Health Adviser, Department of Health Service Provision, WHO.
Which is this disease which seems to be preventable and yet leads as a fatal condition? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a US federal agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, the leading cause for death in the US is heart disease. Heart disease alone caused the death of 599,413 Americans in the year 2010. Is only the US combating this killer? A look at the worldwide statistics reveals the same story. The latest UN reports say that worldwide Ischaemic Heart Disease leads as the cause of death. Over 7.25 million deaths worldwide (12.8%) are caused by heart disease.
UN Data – Top 10 Causes of Death Worldwide
|Cause||Number of Deaths Caused (In Millions)||Percentage Deaths Caused|
|Ischaemic Heart Disease||7.25||12.8|
|Stroke And Other Cerebrovascular Disease||6.15||10.8|
|Lower Respiratory Infections||3.46||6.1|
|Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease||3.28||5.8|
|Trachea, Bronchus, Lung Cancers||1.39||2.4|
|Road Traffic Accidents||1.21||2.1|
Ischaemic Heart Disease or Coronary Artery Disease is a condition in which the supply of blood to the heart muscle is reduced and is usually characterized by angina or chest pains. Usually the deposits of fats lead to the narrowing of arteries leading up to such a condition. The Office for National Statistics, UK, said that in 2010 the leading cause of death in both males and females was Ischaemic Heart Disease. 40,721 men and 29, 475 women all over Wales and England were claimed by heart disease. In India, Coronary Heart Disease was the leading cause of death claiming over 1,416,858 lives each year. In Canada, heart disease accounted for about 21% of all deaths and in China, heart disease is the third deadliest killer claiming over 1,040,692 lives each year.
Sounding the Alarm
In The United States -
A Cardiovascular Disease is any disease that involves the heart and the vascular system (including vascular diseases affecting the brain and kidney). Cardiac disease may be of many types - Ischaemic Heart Disease, Hypertensive Heart Disease, Cor Pulmonale, Cardiomyopathy, Inflammatory Cardiomegaly, Endocarditis, Myocarditis, Valvular Heart Disease, Cardiac Dysrhythmias, Heart Failure, Cerbro Vascular Disease, and Peripheral Arterial Disease.
Though among all cardiovascular diseases (CVD), Ischaemic Heart Disease has been singled out as the deadliest cause of death, together all CVD cause over 17.3 million deaths each year, says UN reports. By 2030, it is estimated that CVD will claim over 23.6 million lives worldwide, each year.
Who Is At Risk?
Researchers and doctors the world over have isolated a number of controllable factors which affect your risk of suffering from a heat disease. To asses your risk of suffering from a heart disease a health care provider or a heart attack risk calculator takes the following factors into account –
Most of these factors pertain to individual lifestyle and small alterations to one’s habits reduce the risks of heart disease quite significantly.
Did You Inherit It?
Besides the controllable factors, there are two important hereditary factors that researchers and medical practitioners take into account while calculating the risks of heart disease – racial descent and family history.
In 2011, Nature Genetics published a research finding according to which five genetic variants had been identified by researchers. These genetic variants were directly linked to heart diseases. The research only goes to corroborate that the genetic influence on risk of heart diseases is indeed not a small one. The increased risks faced by people of certain racial origins are also explained by researchers as being linked to these genetic variants. For example the people of South Asia and Europe are known to have a greater risk because of the presence of these genetic variants.
Earlier in 2010, The Independent had reported research findings which ascertained that the genetic makeup of a person was very significant in estimating risks of heart disease; perhaps more than even the diet or lifestyle factors.
Prevention of Heart Disease
Don’t Smoke – Smoking is the most significant risk factor in heart disease developments. Besides development of atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries, the nicotine in cigarettes also increases hypertension. Women who smoke are at a greater risk of heart disease than their male counterparts, studies say.
Stay Active, Exercise Regularly – Physical inactivity is as much a risk factor as high blood cholesterol levels, claims the AHA. A mild or sedentary lifestyle increases the chances of developing heart disease. Active exercising for about 30 minutes significantly reduces the chances of developing heart disease.
Eat A Balanced Diet – Choosing what we eat and how much of it is a key factor in maintaining a balanced diet. A proper diet including foods that regulate blood pressure is a very important lifestyle choice. Often poor dietary habits are linked to a high risk of heart disease.
Maintain Ideal Weight – Obesity raises the risks of heart disease quite considerably. Be aware of your ideal weight and your Body Mass Index (BMI). According to the AHA, "Even when there are no adverse effects on the known risk factors, obesity by itself increases risk of heart disease"
Get Adequate Sleep – Both low and high amounts of sleep have been known to contribute to the development of heart disease. Men and women who sleep less than five hours or more than nine hours are at an enhanced risk of suffering from heart disease.
Reduce Your Stress Stress is a major factor that leads to the development of a number of conditions such as diabetes and hypertension which in turn lead to heart trouble. Try to set aside some time for yoga or meditation each day.
Learn Your Family Medical History – A family history is a genetic predisposition, an increased risk of having a heart attack. Having a history makes you more susceptible and hence makes caution more necessary.
Have Your Asprins and Vitamins – Researchers believe that the regular consumption of a baby Asprin and Vitamin B significantly reduces the risk of heart disease.
Preserve Cord Blood and Tissue At Childbirth – In recent days, the harvesting, and preservation of cord blood and tissue hold great promise in the treatment of a number of ailments including cardiovascular diseases.
Get Yourself Screened Regularly – Regular health checks and screening for high and low risk individuals alike is recommended by cardiologists the world over. Besides regular preventive healthcare screenings, it is well worth getting heart- health care, diabetes, and cholesterol checks as regularly as suggested by your physician.
Heart Disease In The US
According to the CDC, the top ten causes of death in the US are –
|Cause Of Death||Number Of Deaths|
|Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases||137,353|
|Influenza And Pneumonia||53,692|
|Nephritis, Nephrotic Syndrome, And Nephrosis||48,935|
Heart Disease is the foremost cause of death in the US. While it is certainly heartening that the rate of people suffering from heart disease showed signs of slowing down, going from 6.7% in 2006 to 6% in 2010, some states such as West Virginia and Kentucky still remained well above the national average. Hawaii, on the other hand, has heart disease rates at almost half of the average. By 2010, the incidences of heart attack among Hispanic Americans also dropped from 6.9% (2006) to 6.1%. The American Indians of USA had the highest incidence of heart disease at about 11.6%. Most of the efforts towards heart care and heart disease awareness, prevention, and treatment in the US are carried out by the AHA and the CDC. A number of state programs for prevention of heart disease are also undertaken by state health and welfare agencies.
The Preventable No. 1 Killer?
Can the risks of heart disease be mitigated or eliminated? This is the prime question that concerns researchers and doctors the world over. Being the top cause of death across the globe, the controllable risks of heart disease may quite easily be mitigated by bringing about a change in lifestyle and habits. Why then does fighting heart disease still remain difficult? Is there enough awareness about the preventable nature of heart diseases? More significantly, what makes those who are aware shun positive action?
Is the prevention and treatment of heart disease the responsibility of governmental health organizations or individuals? Are socio-economic factors responsible for increased risk of heart disease? If a person is genetically predisposed to suffering from heart disease can a healthy lifestyle reduce the risks? What makes heart disease more lethal than cancer and HIV?
Is Heart Disease Preventable?