KARACHI: The lax and ineffective health regulations and limited or no corporate accountability have placed a large number of people in Pakistan on higher risk of coronary heart disease, says The Network for Consumer Protection (TNCP) while commemorating ‘World Heart day’ with the theme ‘share the power’ as small changes, such as eating a healthy diet, getting more exercise and giving up smoking, can make a powerful difference to heart health and inspire millions of people around the world to be heart healthy.
At least 12 Pakistanis die every hour due to a heart attack while more than one-third (34 per cent) of all deaths in Pakistan are caused by cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), making it the leading non-communicable disease in the country. Pakistan population has one of the highest risks of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the world. In Pakistan, 30 to 40 per cent of all deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The CHD deaths in Pakistan have reached about 200,000 per year that is 410/100,000 of the population.
The major risk factors are tobacco use, alcohol use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, stress and unhealthy diet. The more risk factors you have the greater is the likelihood that you will suffer heart disease unless you take action to modify your risk factors and work to prevent them compromising your health.
TNCP CEO Nadeem Iqbal, a leading CSO working on tobacco control in Pakistan articulated on the eve of the day that roughly one out of five deaths from heart disease is directly linked to smoking. He said that the nicotine in cigarettes raised blood pressure and shoots heart rate and added that it is crucial to ban smoking in the homes to protect families’ future.
“Tobacco in every form is very harmful to health. If you start smoking at an early age, your risk of cardiovascular disease is much higher than someone who starts as an adult,” he said and added, “Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is also dangerous. The risk of heart attack and stroke starts to drop immediately after a person stops using tobacco products, and can drop by as much as half after one year.”
As a policy suggestion, Pakistan needs to develop and adopt a national NCD policy, said Nadeem.
Low birth weight – common among poor families in Pakistan – is an important risk factor for NCDs in adults. Multiple risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and glucose frequently occur in the same person. Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol using population-wide strategies.
According to British Heart Foundation, Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked. Stopping smoking has huge benefits and it’s never too late to give up.