Heart disease the leading cause of death in Guyana

(INEWSGUYANA) – On September 29, 2020, the Ministry of Health and indeed all of Guyana will join the international community to observe World Heart Day, under the theme, “Use Heart to Beat Cardiovascular Disease”.

World Heart Day brings attention to the toll that cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) take on individuals and, by extension, families and communities. World Heart Day is also aimed at encouraging healthy habits and lifestyles in order to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels, and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. CVDs, in particular heart attack and stroke, are by far the leading causes of death in the world and is responsible for 31% of all global deaths.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), CVDs are the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. WHO also reports that four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age.

Here in Guyana, our statistics reflect the world-wide trend. Over the past five years, heart diseases have been the number one cause of all deaths in Guyana. A significant percent of the population have been diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Cardiovascular diseases are caused by unhealthy lifestyles, such as unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol drinking, insufficient physical activity and smoking. These unhealthy practices contribute to other diseases, such as diabetes, respiratory illnesses, renal disease and several types of cancer.

As Minister of Health, we recognise that measures need to be implemented to further promote healthy lifestyle and good diet, while at the same time discouraging unhealthy ones.

Hence, over the next five years, the Ministry of Health plans to adopt a strategy that will ensure multi-drug therapy and standardized treatments for CVDs are available at our medical facilities, and develop a national programme to provide support for healthy lifestyles.

While Government will continue to implement laws and policies, and health care workers will assess our risks and provide guidance and treatment accordingly, it is important to note that each of us has a role to play in reducing sickness due to cardiovascular diseases.

The private and public sectors, as well as non-governmental organisations, can provide education and offer support by implementing wellness initiatives, which can benefit employees.

By taking individual action through our collective efforts, we will stay one step ahead in protecting our health and that of our family and friends. We must focus on eating healthy foods, making physical activity and exercise a daily habit, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol use.

We are currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic and, while we might not know what course the pandemic will take us in the coming months, we do know that persons living with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart diseases, are more at risk if they become infected.

Do not let COVID-19 stop you from your daily health routines. As we observe World Heart Day, I encourage you to make simple changes, and keep at them consistently.

And while you do so, be sure to encourage your friends and family to join you so that they can also adopt healthy lifestyle choices.