KARACHI: Greasy food, lack of playgrounds, no concept of exercise and a rising stress level may all seem like social or cultural factors, but actually spell trouble for the heart.
At the World Health Day seminar held at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), health experts pointed out the precarious Pakistani habits of diet and living that expose the population to heart attacks and other associated diseases. The hospital’s auditorium was packed with patients and experts likewise.
Pakistani food is cooked excessively and includes high quantities of salt and oil. “We consume far more than normal quantities of fatty acids, salts and sugars that cause obesity,” said Dr Bushra Mumtaz, a consultant dietician at the AKUH.
She also gave a presentation on the dietary guidelines to a healthy heart. She recommended drinking low-fat milk, cutting down salt intake and using lemon in its place, using artificial sweeteners and increasing the use of fibre.
Over one-third of all deaths in Pakistan are caused by cardiovascular diseases, said Dr Khawar Kazmi, the head of cardiology at the AKUH.
Reduced blood supply to the heart, known as ischaemic heart disease, has been identified as the leading cause of deaths in the working-age adults from 15 to 69 years. Pakistan is in the early stages of a demographic transition that will result in a significant increase in the average age of the population as well as the ratio of population over 40 years, according to a recent study published by the World Bank titled “Capitalising on the Demographic Transition -Tackling Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in South Asia”. This demographic shift will certainly result in an increase in cardiovascular patients, the cardiologist warned. Effective interventional strategies and resource allocation will be required at both the governmental and non-governmental levels to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.
The chances of getting heart diseases start at the age of 24 for males and 45 for females, shared Dr Mehrunissa of the cardiology department. The two most common conditions that put people at risk of heart attack are smoking and asthma. The health conditions that may increase this risk are asthma, diabetes, hypertension and the individual’s cholesterol level.
Sharing helpful tips for exercise that help to keep the heart muscles strong, Sumaiya Ansari, the AKUH staff physiotherapist, said that a 10-minute slow exercise warm up, a 20 to 60 minute fast workout of brisk walking followed by another 10-minute slowed up exercise can keep heart muscles fit and increase cardiovascular endurance. A Heart Rhythm Clinic, specialising in investigating abnormal heart functioning will be operational soon at the AKUH, said Dr Khawar Kazmi. The Women Heart Clinic is also expected to open later this year.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.