The World Health Organisation has again joined forces with the World Heart Federation to celebrate World Heart Day on Monday the 29th September 2014. The global focus for this year’s World Heart Day, is on creating heart-healthy environments. By ensuring that people are able to make heart-healthy choices wherever they live, work and play. World Heart Day 2014 encourages everyone to reduce their cardiovascular risk, and promote a heart-healthy planet for those around us.
Cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke) are still the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.3 million lives a year, even though the risk factors for heart disease and stroke are well known. Risk factors include raised blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight, obesity and physical inactivity. 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided by controlling the main risk factors alone.
In Malta, statistics from the Health Information and Research Directorate showed that during the year 2013, ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of death accounted for 705 or 21.8% of all deaths, while other heart diseases (mainly heart failure) accounted for 262 or 8.1% of all deaths. While in ischaemic heart disease there are more male than female deaths (M:387, F:318), the opposite is true for other heart diseases (M: 98, F:136).
On this occasion the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate is emphasizing on taking control of these risk factors. Small changes at the individual level can make a big difference in terms of better health. These measures help prevent not just heart disease and stroke but also other chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease, which together cause 60% of all deaths worldwide. Hence people are encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyles and believe that small changes can make huge differences to the lives of many. The lifestyle of each individual depends on choices that the person makes in their day to day lives.
The Directorate promotes a healthier diet which includes eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, whole grains, lean meat, fish and pulses, and restricted salt, sugar and fat intake and provides services of weight management programmes and physical activity in the community free of charge. Physical activity has been deemed as one of the most important investment in a person’s own health. The World Health Organization recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day for adults and 60 minutes for children.
The local data for smoking shows a slight decline in the number of adults smoking regularly. This has been the result of various factors, including legislative measures, consistent health education on tobacco and the harm it causes, and support services for quitting. Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is also dangerous. The risk of heart attack and stroke starts to drop immediately after a person stops using tobacco products, and can drop by as much as half after one year.
Early identification of other risk factors including high blood pressure, high blood glucose and lipid values will lead to reduced risk. Hence people are encouraged to do regular check ups as guided by the family doctor. The primary care department have set up a pilot project on chronic disease management clinic whereby people are screened for a number of risk factors and advice is given on their management.
On this occasion the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate is joining with the Malta Medical Students Association to raise awareness and encourage healthy lifestyles. An outreach event was held on Sunday 28th September at Bugibba Square from 9am to 1pm and another outreach on Monday 29th September in Valletta front of Law courts from 9am to 1pm. A campaign is being also launched to encourage more people to adopt a healthy lifestyle using various mediums including TV and radio PSAs, leaflets, web and use of social media.