Taking care of your heart |29 September 2023
Cardiovascular disease is one of the major causes of death worldwide, killing millions every year, but does not really make headlines. Even here in Seychelles, cardiovascular disease is among the leading cause of death and premature disability.
As a way of getting people to be more conscious about heart health and what they can do to prevent cardiovascular disease, every year countries around the world come together to celebrate World Heart Day on September 29.
The theme for this year’s World Heart Day is ‘Use Heart, Know Heart’. This is a reminder for all of us to focus on the critical steps we must take to know our hearts first so that we may then take better care of it. Of course one of the best ways to address this is to seek information and through increased awareness.
At the moment there is limited information out there on heart health therefore individuals have to be empowered to take control of their own wellbeing. And to relate back to the theme, the more aware we are, the more likely we can take steps to take better care of our hearts.
What is cardiovascular disease (CVD)?
Before we go any further we need to be clear on what cardiovascular disease (CVD) means. To put it simply, cardiovascular disease includes all conditions that affect the normal functioning of the heart or blood vessels. The conditions can affect your heart's muscle, valves or cause abnormal heart rhythms.
The development of cardiovascular diseases is linked with a build-up of fatty deposits inside arteries (atherosclerosis), which develops slowly over many years as well as blood clots which may develop suddenly.
There are many types of cardiovascular disease that exists but we will go through some common ones namely coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease.
Coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease happens when the flow of blood containing oxygen to the heart is blocked or reduced. Because of this, there is increased strain on the heart which can lead to a chest pain known as angina; heart attacks where blood flow to the heart is suddenly blocked causing damage to the heart muscle; or heart failure whereby the heart is unable to effectively pump blood around the body.
A stroke happens when the supply of blood to part of the brain is cut off or disrupted leading to brain damage and at times death depending on severity.
One of the ways that a person can identify a stroke is by remembering the acronym FAST which stands for:
F- Face: the face may have drooped on one side, the person may be unable to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
A- Arms: the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
S- Speech: their speech may be slurred or garbled, they may not be able to talk at all or they may not be able to understand what you are saying to them.
T- Time: it's time to call emergency immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease happens when the artery transporting blood to the limbs, in particular the legs, is blocked. This can cause numbness or weakness in the legs, hair loss on legs and feet, cramping leg pain, which is worsened by walking but improves when at rest, and ulcers or open sores on the legs and feet.
Risk factors of cardiovascular diseases (CVD)
There are many factors that increase a person’s risk of getting cardiovascular disease (CVD) some of which cannot be modified and others that can be prevented. By being aware of the risk factors however you can take steps to reduce your overall risk.
Let’s start with the non-modifiable risk factors which are of course the ones that you do not have any control over. This includes having a family history of cardiovascular diseases, being of certain ethnic background such as African and Asian (which basically describes many Seychellois), gender, with men having higher predisposition to getting CVD at an earlier age than women and age with older individuals in general being at higher risk of getting CVD.
Other risk factors are modifiable therefore we have control over them. It includes smoking, alcohol and being physically inactive, which we choose for ourselves. This then leads to other risk factors that are collectively known as the metabolic syndrome that increases your risk of CVD and includes obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and impaired blood cholesterol levels.
Preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD)
There are many things that you can do in your daily life to reduce your risk of CVD.
Have a nutritious and diversified diet
Include foods that are rich in nutrients like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, local starches (breadfruit, sweet potatoes), fish, chicken, lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and healthy fats like olive oil alongside healthy cooking methods to help maintain a healthy body weight. Also cut back on highly processed foods that are high in salt, sugar, saturated and trans fats.
Abstain from harmful substances
The toxic substances in tobacco and alcohol can damage blood vessels hence increasing your risk of developing CVD. The best option is to quit smoking and alcohol. For those who choose to drink, stay within recommended limits of not more than 2 units per day for men and women.
Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five times per week. This can include walking, dancing, other recreational activities like hiking, sports or exercise. Start small, and gradually increase on intensity and duration. The important thing is to sit less and move more!
Manage stress and get adequate rest
Meditation, deep breathing, yoga and physical activity are all great ways to help you relax. Get the support you need by fostering relationships and spending time with friends and family. Finally, aim for at least 7 hours of sleep daily to help you be well-rested for the day ahead.
Thank you for joining us this week on our Eat for Our Health page. Look us up on social media - Eat for Our Health Seychelles on Facebook.
Please get in touch by emailing email@example.com and let us know how you’re doing with these ideas, or better still, let us know how we can help you.
Yours in health
The E4OH team
Taking care of your heart