What is Cardiovascular Disease?
The biggest cause of death across Pakistan is revealed to be ischemic heart disease, otherwise called coronary artery disease. In fact, ischemic heart disease is the world’s biggest killer. It’s also the largest killer of men in Pakistan.
Ischemic heart disease happens when the arteries in the heart are unable to effectively deliver sufficient oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It is a result of plaque building up in the coronary arteries, which goes on to block the flow of blood either partially or fully.
Different people will display different symptoms even if they suffer from the same kind of ischemic heart disease. The tragedy is that many people will often show no symptoms at all, meaning they won’t know they have the disease until the experience sudden cardiac arrest or some other complication.
Why is the Pakistani population so vulnerable to ischemic heart disease?
Multiple factors lead to the Pakistani population’s high risk of cardiovascular diseases. These include a lack of exercise, smoking and unhealthy diets. Ischemic heart disease is further fueled by factors like high cholesterol and obesity.
What’s more, Pakistan’s failure to provide enough quality health care facilities is also an issue. An increase in such facilities, coupled with enhanced public awareness, could help reduce the fatality rate of this disease. Data from the World Health Organization shows that 46 people die every hour due to cardiac ailments like heart failures and heart attacks.
According to Khawar Kazmi, cardiologist and head at Preventive Cardiology Department, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), “Three years ago, only 12 people were dying due to heart diseases per hour but only in a matter of three years, the figure has alarmingly increased four fold and now 46 people are dying due to heart attacks in Pakistan.”
He went on to say, “WHO figures and statistics reveal that majority of Pakistanis don’t participate in physical activity which is the leading cause of heart ailments and heart attacks in the world including Pakistan.”
The data remains consistent regardless of social status: most people simply do not engage in sufficient exercise on a daily basis. World Health Organization data from 2016 reveals an annual death rate of 250,000 people due to heart diseases in Pakistan, but in 3 years, there has been an increase in these deaths to a whopping 29.1%.
“The daily death rate due to heart diseases,” according to Kazmi, “comes to a staggering 1,115 people, mostly due to heart attacks, which can, fortunately be prevented by lifestyle modifications.”
How ischemic heart disease is diagnosed
One reason regular check-ups are so important is that they can find signs of heart trouble even if you haven’t experienced any symptoms yet. Your health care provider will diagnose ischemic heart disease based on a number of factors, including your symptoms, your risk factors, your family and medical history, and the results from procedures and tests.
Keep in mind that women may experience symptoms of ischemic heart disease differently than men. Doctors may therefore not have the experience to diagnose and treat these symptoms in women as quickly than men. This makes regular check-ups even more necessary for women.
Lifestyle modifications that can prevent ischemic heart disease
Kazmi pointed to a lack of fresh vegetables and fruit in the average Pakistani’s daily diet as a key factor behind the high cardiac disease rate. Chewing tobacco like gutka and naswar also plays a part in increasing the risk of these diseases. A poor diet can lead to problems like diabetes, obesity and hypertension, all of which are significant risk factors behind ischemic heart disease. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is therefore a crucial lifestyle modification to prevent ischemic heart disease. It is also recommended that people stop the use of tobacco in all of its forms. This, combined with regular exercise, would drastically lower the risk of ischemic heart disease. Following a healthy lifestyle is a must to avoid the pit of heart disease related deaths.
Ischemic heart disease may be the biggest cause of death across Pakistan revealed through the years. But it’s important to remember that it can be prevented by altering your lifestyle for the better, and following your doctor’s instructions.