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Don’t lose heart during COVID-19

28 Sep 2020 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

As an initiative by the World Heart Federation to spread awareness on cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including heart diseases and stroke, September 29 is observed as World Heart Day. This year, the day is being celebrated amid COVID-19 with experts saying that treatment should be sought for heart diseases even in these days of the pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 17.9mn people die of CVDs every year, accounting for over 31 per cent of global deaths. One-third of these deaths are premature (below 70 years) and about 80 per cent of all CVDs manifest themselves as heart attacks or strokes, and 75 per cent cases come from low and middle-income countries.

“During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is noted that world over there is a drastic decrease in the number of patients attending hospital emergency rooms and marked decline in the number of heart attack patients being admitted to emergency care. This is not actually because people became healthier, but because many are avoiding visits to clinics and often ignoring dangerous symptoms, especially concerning cardiac problems,” said Dr Benny Panakkal, senior consultant interventional cardiologist, Badr al Samaa Hospital.

He said that a recent survey conducted in the US revealed that people are more afraid of getting infected by COVID-19 than having a heart attack. 

“Emergency treatment should be sought even in these days of pandemic. All hospitals have mechanisms and triages to segregate suspected COVID-19 patients from other patients,” Dr Panakkal said.

“All proper precautions are mandatory in hospitals and in place under the Ministry of Health guidelines and supervision. So it’s safe to go to a hospital and get treatment if you feel you are in need. And always remember to observe social distancing and to wear a mask while in public places, observe hand hygiene; stay safe and healthy,” he added.

According to WHO, CVDs are the number one cause of death globally. Individuals at risk of CVD may show raised blood pressure, glucose and lipids.

Dr K P Raman, chairman and cardiologist, Al Hayat International Hospital, said COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weakness in healthcare delivery systems even in affluent countries. 

“We are not focusing on the basics of healthcare delivery which is prevention and primary healthcare. So on this year’s World Heart Day, we once again emphasise on health education of the public on preventive cardiology,” he said.

Dr Raman said there is need for lifestyle modification. “There is need to stop smoking, avoid  excess alcohol, daily exercise, eat healthy and prevent being overweight,” he said.

“Also, there is need for periodic check-ups. This will help in detecting and treating high BP, diabetes and high blood cholesterol before they produce complications. We all need to be well informed about the goals of treatment. Insist on the doctor that he spares no efforts to help you achieve these goals.

“If these are achieved by increasing heart health awareness, we will be saving many lives as well as our resources,” Dr Raman said.

WHO says the burden of CVDs can be reduced. Cost effective interventions that are feasible to be implemented even in low-resource settings have been identified by WHO for prevention and control of CVDs.

According to WHO, prevention measures include comprehensive tobacco control policies, taxation to reduce the intake of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, building walking and cycle paths to increase physical activity, strategies to reduce harmful use of alcohol and providing healthy school meals to children. 

‘At the individual level, for prevention of first heart attacks and strokes, individual healthcare interventions need to be targeted to those at high total cardiovascular risk or those with single risk factor levels above traditional thresholds, such as hypertension and hypercholesterolemia,’ WHO says.

 

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