Reducing risk factors can improve your chances of leading a heart-healthy life

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CARPHA) – Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death and illness among populations.  In Non-Latin Caribbean countries, CVDs account for an estimated 30.8 percent of deaths which are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

CVDs are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease or ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions.

Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke account for 78 percent of all CVD deaths in all Latin America and Caribbean countries combined, and hypertensive deaths account for 8 percent. In Saint Lucia, Jamaica and Dominica IHD deaths represent less than 35 percent, while stroke deaths contribute to 45 percent of all CVDs in Jamaica.

World Heart Day observed annually on September 29, aims to inform people about cardiovascular diseases including heart disease and stroke, which are the leading cause of death globally. This year’s theme Use Heart to Connect is about using your knowledge, compassion and influence to make sure you, your loved ones and the communities are part of, have the best chance to live heart-healthy lives.

“The biggest risk factors driving premature death and disability from CVDs are poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, and obesity. Although some risk factors for CVDs such as age or family history, cannot be controlled, CARPHA urges you to take responsibility for your health by making changes to reduce risk factors so as to improve your chances of leading a heart-healthy life.  It is important to look after your heart by eating a healthy diet, not smoking, reducing the intake of alcohol and being physically active,” stated Dr Tamu Davidson, head of the chronic disease and injury unit at CARPHA.

Risk factors for NCDs can make people more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with COVID-19.  People with poor cardiovascular health and other NCDs, are especially vulnerable to serious COVID-19 complications. If you have an underlying health condition, such as heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity, you are at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, and more likely to die from the virus. The best way to prevent infection with COVID-19 is to minimize exposure to the virus.

The Agency supports its Member States in moving towards improving population health by reducing risk factors, to achieve reductions in premature deaths from cardiovascular disease and other NCDs in the population. There are several initiatives led by CARPHA that contribute to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 to reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being by 2030.

Through a project funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is developing a Regional NCD surveillance system. This will generate the health information needed for planning and implementation of interventions, including health policy, for NCD prevention and control. CARPHA in collaboration with the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) updated the regional guidelines for diabetes management in primary health care and will be developing guidelines for hypertension.

“CARPHA continues to promote healthy diets and reduction of childhood obesity in the Caribbean. A cookbook Kids Can Cook Too for children, and guidance for Caribbean countries to implement a Model Framework for Sodium reduction are some of the tools available to support Caribbean countries. CARPHA has also been instrumental in supporting the development of policies and plans which form the framework for action for NCDs,” stated Dr Davidson. These include the Caribbean Cooperation in Health Phase IV (CCH IV), and the six point policy package to reduce childhood obesity.

CARPHA calls on everyone – Caribbean governments, civil society groups, regional organisations, and communities to take action. Establish, enforce and protect NCD prevention policies, and demonstrate your commitment to enhancing the quality of your own life and that of your loved ones.

So, this year, are we going to connect, my heart, your heart, all our hearts for the best chance to live heart-healthy lives?

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