The typical human heart beats about 115,000 times a day and is the most crucial for survival since it enables blood circulation throughout the body. However, despite the criticality of this organ in human survival, little do we know or care about the state of our heart. It is only if we feel blinding chest pain do we rush to the hospital for a bypass – otherwise, all our responses are reactive and never preventive. It is precisely to reverse this approach and raise awareness about the state of the heart in humans that the World Heart Day is celebrated across the world every year on 29 September.
Let the hearts beat – Background of the World Heart Day
Conceived by the World Heart Federation (WHF), World Heart Day (WHD), established in the year 2000, has emerged as the biggest platform for raising awareness and enlightening people around the globe that cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death, claiming as many as 18 million lives each year.
The WHD also aligns with the commitment made by world leaders in May 2012 to reduce global mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25 per cent by 2025. Notably, CVD accounts for nearly half of all NCD deaths, making it the world’s number one killer. Relevantly so, the WHD platform also highlights the actions that individuals can take to prevent and control CVD. For instance, the WHD aims to drive action to educate people that by controlling risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, at least 80 per cent of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke can be avoided.
WHD is a global campaign in which cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, primary care physicians, patients, family members, educational institutions, companies and governments all over the world, as well as individual citizens, can take part to organise activities aimed at promoting better cardiovascular health. Through this campaign, WHF unites people from all countries, ethnicities and backgrounds in the common fight against the CVD burden and inspires and drives international action to encourage ‘heart-friendly’ living across the world.
This sort of awareness is most crucial for countries like Bangladesh in which the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that NCDs account for a shocking 59 per cent of the total deaths in the country and CVD constitutes as much as 17 per cent of the proportional mortality (percentage of total deaths, all ages). World Heart Day is therefore the perfect platform to raise awareness about the condition of the heart in a bid to reduce the disease burden as well as for the CVD community to unite in the fight against CVD.
Start your good heart journey: WHD campaign, 2018
The World Heart Day 2018 campaign is anchored on accomplishing several key goals that include the following:
>>To be all encompassing
The WHD campaign has held a global viewpoint with a strong emphasis on prevention and the initiatives people can take to improve their cardiovascular health. In 2018, while maintaining this focus, the WHD platform seeks to make the role of the healthcare professional to be clearer with more accountability.
>> To be actionable/relevant
The WHD has made a clarion call to action that asks everyone, from individuals and families to healthcare practitioners and policymakers, to promise to do their bit in improving their own heart health and that of the others in terms of working to reduce the impact of CVD, to educate the common people and to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). In 2018, the WHD is asking for a commitment from the heart, which is encapsulated in the heart-warming expression of: ‘MY HEART, for YOUR HEART, for ALL OUR HEARTS’.
>> To be educational
The WHD will be actively used as a platform for debunking myths about CVD, which is, paradoxically, the number one killer, but not the most understood.
>> To be inspirational
The WHD, to inspire change, has asked WHF members to share their stories of inspiring ‘Heart Heroes’. These personal stories allow people to talk about key CVD risk factors and treatments and motivate people to make lasting behavioural changes.
>> To be sharable
The WHD campaign includes numerous elements that encourage sharing, dialogue and engagement. The more people share and engage, the greater is the chance of achieving the fundamental goal of making every heartbeat matter.
For 2018, the overarching WHD theme is about celebrating and connecting like-minded people. It is anchored on simplicity, warmth, emotions and translatability and is flexible to provide an umbrella for the different campaign strands the world over.
The campaign sentiment of ‘MY HEART, YOUR HEART’ is about wrapping a sense of commitment around the common issues related to heart health. It is a concept that educates, inspires and motivates people to keep their hearts healthy. Essentially, it is also about saying to ourselves, the people we care for and individuals all around the world, ‘What can I do right now to look after MY HEART and YOUR HEART?’ It also resonates with the professional cardiology and healthcare audiences who dedicate themselves to looking after ‘ALL OUR HEARTS’.
The campaign draws strength from the fact that though CVD is the world’s number one killer today, it doesn’t need to be this way. By making just a few small lifestyle changes, one can not only reduce his/her risk of heart disease and stroke but also improve overall life quality and set a strong example for the next generation.
State of the heart: Debunking myths around your heart
As a part of one of the key goals of World Heart Day 2018 on educating the masses around good cardiovascular health, accurate information about CVD risk factors is vital for early detection and treatment. So here are some of the common myths around CVD:
>>Heart disease only affects older people: False
Almost 22 per cent of all disability-adjusted life years (or years of healthy life lost) in people aged 15-49 years are due to CVD (as per Global Burden of Disease Study 2016). Hence, good lifestyle choices made early in life are key to prevent risks around CVD later.
>>If one has high blood pressure, one would have noticeable symptoms: False
The majority of people with hypertension do not show any visible symptoms. However, if left unchecked, hypertension can cause a myocardial infarction and, in the long run, heart failure.
>> If heart disease runs in the family, there’s nothing one can do about it: False
Genetic factors do play a role in high blood pressure, heart disease and other related conditions. However, environments and other factors also increase heart disease risks and should be always addressed on time. Making good lifestyle choices are also important to prevent CVD.
>>Having diabetes doesn’t mean one has a higher chance of developing heart disease: False
CVD is the primary cause of death of patients with diabetes. Diabetes was recognised as a CVD risk factor in the exploration of risk factors in the Framingham Heart Study. Moreover, diabetes was consistently found to be a stronger risk factor for CVD in women than men.
What happens on World Heart Day?
Governments and non-government organisations celebrate and promote World Heart Day with activities such as fun runs, public talks, concerts, and sporting events. The World Heart Federation organises awareness events in more than 100 countries. They include health checks, sports events, (walks, runs and fitness sessions), public talk shows, concerts and exhibitions, among others. These activities are conducted in collaboration with organisations such as the WHO.
Activities on the World Heart Day aside, what are the initiatives you could take to celebrate World Heart Day every day? Here are a few suggestions:
- Promise to eat well
- Cut down on sugary beverages and fruit juices
- Swap sweet, sugary treats for fresh fruit
- Try to consume 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Try to limit processed and pre-packaged foods (that are often high in salt, sugar and fat content)
- Promise to get more active every day – take the stairs, walk or cycle instead of driving
- Promise to say no to smoking
- Control your blood pressure
- Avoid tobacco
- Engage in weight control
So how will you celebrate World Heart Day on 29 September 2018 and what are the initiatives you expect to undertake to ensure that your heart is in the pink of health? Write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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On that note, here’s wishing you a happy World Heart Day 2018!
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