Love Your Heart
Message from the Minister of Health, the Hon. Mark Scotland on World Heart Day
World Heart day is observed every year on 29 September to bring attention to the toll that cardiovascular diseases take on individuals and communities. In addition, it highlights things we can do to help prevent the development of heart disease and minimize its impact on our lives if we are already affected.
Last week (19 and 20 September), leaders from around the world gathered for only the second ever United Nations High Level Meeting on a health issue - the first was to discuss the AIDS epidemic. This year they gathered to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which include chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease. These preventable illnesses kill more people each year than all other causes of death combined. Representatives at the meeting described NCDs as 'a huge threat to global stability'. Of these, cardiovascular disease is the largest culprit.
Here in Cayman our statistics reflect the world wide trend. Heart disease is the cause of over one third of deaths each year. A significant percent of the population have been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease.
Each of us has a role to play in solving this problem. Government can implement laws and policies; health care providers can assess our risks and provide guidance and treatment as necessary; non-profit organizations provide community education and offer support; employers provide health insurance benefits and can initiate employee wellness initiatives. These are all crucial actions that can help to address the problems that cardiovascular diseases create. Yet, they can only be beneficial if each one of us takes individual action and are proactive in protecting our own heart health, and that of our families.
This year, the theme for World Heart Day is, "One World, One Home, One Heart" and it highlights and encourages action on the part of individuals/families. We know that a significant percentage (between 80-85%) of premature deaths due to cardiovascular disease can be prevented and that individuals can be proactive by taking charge of their own risks by taking steps such as:
- Choosing healthy food options
- Increasing physical activity
- Saying 'NO' to tobacco
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Knowing your numbers.
These are surprisingly affordable and attainable solutions, however, it does take determination and action. Start small, make simple changes, keep at them consistently and then add other healthy actions. Before long you will have improved your own health, and likely that of those close to you, and reduced your risk of heart disease. Start today.