‘Healthy diet, exercise key in reducing chances of stroke’

Muscat - 

Unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, diabetes and obesity are significant reasons that may increase chances of heart diseases, according to experts. “Hypertension is another most important risk factor of stroke worldwide including Oman,” said Dr Ammar Alobaidy, behavioural neurologist and senior specialist, Neurology, Department of Medicine at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH). The other risk factors can be reduced if a person makes changes to his/her lifestyle.

“There is also risk of having stroke due to non-modifiable risk factors such as age. Another factor is family history,” he said. In Oman, people seek traditional medication instead of going to hospitals, said Dr Alobaidy, which adds to the risk factor. Consanguineous marriages, use of drugs such as heroin and cocaine, are also some of the other factors that cause stroke in youngsters. According to WHO data, published in May 2014, deaths due to strokes reached 950 or 10.94 per cent of the total deaths in Oman. Dr Alobaidy has urged people to identify the signs of stroke through FAST.

“FAST is an abbreviation used to recognise the signs of a stroke. FAST stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time factor. If a person has these signs, he or she should immediately go to a hospital.”

Dr Ziyab Khan, cardiothoracic surgery resident at SQUH, said that coronary heart disease usually occurs due to progressive occlusion (blockage) of the coronary arteries. “There are multiple factors that can lead to these blockages: Age, gender, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia (high LDL cholesterol), cigarette smoking, poor dietary choices and obesity. Of these, diabetes and obesity play a very significant part. These risk factors can cumulatively lead to an imbalance between supply and demand of oxygen to the heart.”

Dr Khan said, this condition can manifest as chest pain and cause blockages that are usually progressive. In this condition, a person may feel chest pain on exercise. If a person is not treated at this time, he or she may experience a myocardial (heart muscles) infarction or a heart attack. According to the WHO data 2014, coronary heart disease deaths in Oman reached 1,438 or 16.57 per cent of total deaths.

Dr Khan said, “Heart diseases are divided into congenital and acquired (if he/she has any of the previously mentioned risk factors). So, in essence heart disease can occur at any age. Patients with congenital heart diseases show symptoms at birth or usually soon after. Some may even be without symptoms until their mid-30s. Majority of these diseases need some form of surgical intervention.

“Acquired conditions usually present later in life and are secondary to coronary artery disease, although other common causes can be heart failure, valvular heart disease and irregular heart rhythms.” Men above 45 and women above 50 should go for regular check-ups, Dr Khan said, adding that children should be taught the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet and importance of exercise.

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