In Pakistan, a person gets a heart attack when his cholesterol level reaches 150 milligrams, whereas for Europeans it is 200 milligrams.
“Hence, Pakistanis need to be more careful of their diet,” said Cardiologist Dr Khawar Abbas of Tabba Heart Institute Karachi, while quoting a study by Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology at a seminar held here on Saturday.
Senior cardiologists from across the country participated in the seminar, which was Organised by the Pakistan Cardiac Society (PCS). They expressed concern over the increasing incidence of heart diseases in the country, particularly among the youth, and attributed it to lack of awareness.
Heart diseases account for around 35 to 40 per cent of the total disease burden in Pakistan, said PCS President Major General Azhar Mehmood Kayani.
Lack of awareness about lifestyles, food habits, body weight, and the importance of exercise and deep sleep is the major reason behind the increase in cardiovascular diseases in the country, he said.
“Sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, consumption of junk food and excessive smoking among the country’s youth is the reason why people are developing heart diseases in their early 40s,” he added.
Quoting statistics from the World Bank report, “Capitalizing on demographic transition: Tackling non-communicable diseases in South Asia”, he said that the average life expectancy in Pakistan is only 66 years.
“It is unfortunate that any celebration or festivity in our country is related to heavy food consumption, with any regard to its harmful effects on health,” said Kayani, the PCS president.
However, the spread of cardiovascular diseases in the country can be controlled through prevention and awareness.
People need to change their diet patterns by consuming more green and fresh vegetables and fruits, “and say no to junk food,” he said. People need to include exercise in their daily routine, sleep early and avoid “useless tensions”.
Dr Kayani added that the cost of treatment of heart diseases in Pakistan is quite high. “It costs around Rs40,000 to 50,000 for diagnosis of the disease alone, while the treatment cost runs into millions,” he said.
Dr Abbas of Tabba Heart Institute Karachi said that currently there is no concept of preventive cardiology departments in public hospitals.
He added health workers are insufficiently trained to deal with non-communicable diseases, like heart attacks. “There is a dire need to run mass scale community awareness programs regarding heart diseases in Pakistan,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2011.