April 21, 2024

World Heart Day (WHD) is observed every Sept. 29 and the slogan for 2022 is “Use heart for every heart.”

The World Heart Federation (WHF) encourages everybody to “think differently, make the right decisions, take courage, help others.”

Our own activities can benefit humanity, nature, and ourselves. Learning about heart disease can help us spread awareness on its prevention. Walking or cycling reduces air pollution, which causes 25 percent of cardiovascular deaths. WHF encourages exercise, meditation, getting enough quality sleep to lower stress levels, reminding us that “psychological stress can double the risk of heart attack.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of death in the Philippines and worldwide. About 85 percent of CVD deaths are due to heart attack and stroke.

A heart attack occurs suddenly but the processes that lead to this myocardial infarction (death of heart muscle actually start as long as 30 years before the “acute” or “sudden” event). It is important that a person is aware of his risk factors and knows what he should do about them.

Arteries are the blood vessels through which blood passes through to bring oxygen and nutrients to the heart and other vital organs. These arteries are normally elastic and flexible but can become stiff and thickened in a condition called arteriosclerosis. Blood flow becomes slow and inadequate. In atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis is caused by the build-up of fat or cholesterol and other substances inside or in the walls of arteries. The process is called plaque formation. Plaques reduce or obstruct blood flow and may even rupture inside an artery.

Atherosclerotic changes can occur in early childhood and predispose children to diseases of the heart and arteries later in life. In most cases, however, the changes are minor and with healthy lifestyle, cardiovascular diseases can be minimized or prevented.

The process leading to atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis is accelerated by the presence of these risk factors in a child or adolescent and in adults – overweight or obesity, dyslipidemia, elevated blood pressure, exposure to cigarette smoke, strong history of premature cardiovascular deaths in the family, insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney disease.

Overweight in children is defined as body mass index (BMI) equal to higher than 85th percentile, and obesity is greater than 95th percentile. In adults, overweight is BMI greater than or equal to 25 and obesity is BMI greater than or equal to 30.

Dyslipidemia is the term used for disorders of fat or lipid transport or metabolism in the body. In blood tests these manifest as high total cholesterol, high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high triglycerides.

In adults it is an established risk factor for CVD events but in childhood long-term studies have yet to show its direct link to CVD events. However, it has been associated with increased risk of arterial thickening, plaque formation, and persistent lipid disorders as the affected child grows older.

A positive family history of premature cardiovascular disease means that heart attack, unstable angina (heart ischemia even at rest), interventions for heart disease like heart bypass or insertion of a stent, sudden cardiac death, transient ischemic attack (“mini stroke”) that resolves in a few minutes or less than 24 hours), stroke in a first or second-degree relative before age 55 years old for males and before age 65 years old for females.

Medical questions and suggestions may be emailed to [email protected] or [email protected].