In this post, clinical pharmacist Rachel Gan explains how heart diseases - the leading cause of death in the world - can be prevented through lifestyle changes.
In 2011, the World Health Organisation has concluded that there is an estimated 55 million people who died worldwide. Diagram below shows the world’s top 10 causes of death in 2011.
Despite car accidents being prevalent, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the first two leading causes of death, which comprise of ischemic heart disease (IHD or heart attack) and stroke. In 2011 alone, this ‘silent killer’, CVD has killed 17 million people, and 3 out of every 10 deaths are caused by CVD.
It is more than double of people has been killed by the Roman Empire during its most prototypical fascist state of history that lasted for 1000 years. And perhaps, while completing this sentence, another 3 people have already fallen victim to heart attack.
How cholesterol kills?
Cholesterol (or commonly said plaque) builds up quietly over a period of years in our blood vessels until it reaches an advanced stage. As a result of the asymptomatic (lack of symptoms) progression of the disease, acute coronary and cerebrovascular events such as heart attack and stroke often occur suddenly and result in fatalities due to the blockage of blood vessels.
CVD is like a human time bomb, it can happen from age of as young as 13 years old.
How can we survive and prevent this human time bomb?
In a previous HealthWorks.my Ask the Expert article, Dr. TK Ho, a vascular/endovascular surgeon has briefly described and elaborated on a few ways to reduce the risk associated with CVD as follows:
- Exercise more
- Eat a healthy diet
- Don’t smoke
- Control your other risk factors (blood pressure, diabetes etc.)
Extension from above, there are 9 risk factors that accounts for most of the risks for CVD, an INTERHEART global case study concluded. They are:
- Abdominal obesity*
- Consumption of fruits, vegetables
- Regular physical activity
- Abnormal lipids
- Psychosocial factors
*Abdominal obesity predicts CVD risk more accurately than simply measuring the widely recognized indicator, body mass index (BMI). Current guidelines recommend measuring waist circumference in combination with weight or BMI.
Among the nine risk parameters, the first five are modifiable risk factors, and they can actually be prevented through lifestyle intervention!
It is estimated that 80% of premature heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented through interventions that lead to healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoidance of tobacco products.
Prevention is better than cure, this instinctive concept has long been ingrained in our mind. Appropriate lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on our health. In the coming articles, I will further explain on how to tailor a suitable lifestyle intervention as well as how to set realistic goals on each modifiable risk factor.