LAHORE - One third of all deaths are caused by heart attack, a leading non-communicable disease in the country, doctors say.

At least 16 million people are suffering from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and the situation is likely to worsen in coming years due to lack of public awareness, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and improper healthcare facilities in the public sector.

The CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Heart attacks and strokes are usually acute events and are mainly caused by a blockage that stops blood from flowing to the heart or brain.

After Hypertension, obesity is the leading risk factor for CVDs. In Pakistan, prevalence of hypertension is 19 per cent in population over 15 years of age and obesity in 45 per cent of the urban population. Over 25 per cent of children in Pakistan are either overweight or at risk of being overweight.

Over 60 per cent of Pakistan’s population is under 25 years of age and the burden of CVDs is likely to increase phenomenally after aging of people over the next 10-15 years.

“Due to lack of any proper survey, no authentic data is available regarding prevalence of CVDs in the country. However, experts believe, at least eight per cent of the population is suffering from CVDs. If prevailing conditions persist, population with CVDs will reach 30 per cent after 10 years. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, frequent use of already cooked food, obesity and sedentary lifestyle”, said Dr Amer Bandesha, senior cardiologist working at Punjab Institute of Cardiology.

“Cooking style in Pakistan is also increasing population with CVDs. Excessive heating for a prolonged period not only reduce quality of food but also make it harmful for heart. Storage of cooked food in freezers and its reheating for use is harmful. Once cooking oil is cooled after reaching its boiling point, reheating produces saturated fat and free radicals. This causes formation of new clots and thickening of existing ones,” he said, adding, habit of taking meals from restaurants and reuse of already cooked food coupled with sedentary lifestyle has caused alarming increase in the incidents of heart attacks among youth. “There is need for adopting healthy lifestyle, avoiding drug abuse, taking freshly cooked food, adequate use of cereals, nuts, fruits, vegetables and regular exercise to avoid CVDs. People having family history of mature heart disease should take extra care besides regular screening,” he said.

“In the absence of regular screening, majority of the people reach hospitals after developing complications. At this stage, life of patient is at greater risk and treatment is also costly,” Dr Bandesha said.

The doc said: “There is need for managing cardiovascular risk factors which contributes significantly to the disease burden in Pakistan. CVDs are a serious threat to Pakistan and a better management of risk factors can positively impact the mortality rate. There is need of taking extra care of kids. Even their sore throats should not be taken lightly. If not treated timely and properly, sore throat can release bacteria that attack valves of heart,” he said.

“Adopting healthy lifestyle, periodic check up of blood pressure, screening for cholesterol, lipid profile and diabetes every year after reaching 20th birthday is need of the hour”, he said.

“Controlling fast growing CVDs is the responsibility of both the individuals and the government. People should take precautionary measures and make periodic screening a habit. Government should launch massive public awareness campaign regarding preventive measures as CVDs have already reached epidemic proportions,” he said.

Dr Bandhesha said: “Person getting heart attack once will always remain a cardiac patient. He should be owned by the state and provided regular diagnostic and treatment facilities. PIC is the biggest heart care cantre in the country. As the government has not established more need based centres, patient load at PIC has increased three times in last 10 years.”

In major cities like Lahore, cardiac centres at teaching hospitals should be made functional. Proper cardiac centres should be established at DHQ/THQ hospitals for easing burden on tertiary care hospitals and providing treatment to heart patients in the close vicinity of their homes, Dr Bandesha said.

Like other parts of the globe, World Hypertension Day was be observed across the country including Lahore on Sunday (today) to raise awareness about hypertension, its preventive measures and complications through variety of activities and events.

This year, the theme of World Hypertension Day is “Know Your Blood Pressure”.