New Delhi: The World Health Organization South East Asia (WHO SEARO) believes that within the health sector, one of the most important interventions governments can make is providing screening and health counselling services at the primary health care level. Not only does this give people a better shot at avoiding cardiovascular diseases in the first place, but it also means that if and when conditions occur they can be managed before severe complications arise, it has stated through its latest message on World Heart Day today on September 29th.
“Maintaining a healthy heart is the best way to avoid life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke which are among the most lethal killers in the WHO South-East Asia Region. These and other cardiovascular diseases account for a sizeable proportion of the 8.5 million people in the Region dying of noncommunicable diseases every year, many of them prematurely. On World Heart Day and beyond, increasing heart health and diminishing the risk of disease should be a priority for us all,” mentioned Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
As per Dr Singh, there are a few key habits individuals can cultivate. These include avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption and eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Limiting salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day is likewise critical to lowering blood pressure and mitigating the risk of heart attacks and strokes. These measures should be complemented by engaging in moderate intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
At the same time, governments can promote heart health and diminish the disease burden in a number of ways. By building public infrastructure such as parks and cycle ways, governments can facilitate greater physical activity while healthy lifestyle messaging can enhance health literacy and aid health-related decision-making. Governments can also forge partnerships with non-health sector organizations – including businesses and civil society – to promote tobacco control, diminish alcohol use, and limit the consumption of processed foods and foods with high trans-fat and salt.
Countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region reiterated their commitment to take action against noncommunicable diseases by adopting the Colombo Declaration earlier this month. The Declaration calls for concerted Region-wide action to reverse the rising burden of cardiovascular disease among other noncommunicable diseases, placing particular emphasis on the primary health care approach, as well as other non-health sector initiatives.
As public awareness and public policy align, people across the Region will have the best chance possible of maintaining a healthy heart and living a longer, happier life. Achieving this goal is a responsibility that individuals, communities, the health and non-health sectors must embrace and strive for.