Adopt heart-healthy lifestyle: WHO

Kathmandu, September 28

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 South-East Asia region, which also includes Nepal.

These and other cardiovascular diseases account for a sizeable proportion of the 8.5 million people in the region dying of non-communicable diseases every year, many of them prematurely, warned Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh World Health Organisation Regional Director for South-East Asia on the eve of World Heart Day (September 29).

On World Heart Day and beyond, increasing heart health and diminishing the risk of disease should be a priority for us all, she stressed. “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,” Dr Singh advised.

According to her, governments can also 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 organisations to promote tobacco control, diminish alcohol use, and limit the consumption of processed foods and foods with high trans-fat and salt.

“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,” she said.

Countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region reiterated their commitment to take action against non-communicable diseases by adopting the Colombo Declaration earlier this month.

The declaration calls for concerted region-wide action to reverse the rising burden of cardiovascular diseases.