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The Latin American challenge to face heart diseases

Heart diseases are a global illness that particularly affects Latin America

The Latin American challenge to face heart diseases

Pedro Infante sang: "Heart, heart! Do not want to kill me, sweetheart".  In fact, he does not really want to do it. This pump that drives the blood through the arteries is key so that the vital fluid reaches our entire organism.

Leer en español: El reto de cuidar el corazón latinoamericano

Despite its quiet and faithful activity, we often forget the important role it fulfills in the midst of our occupations, our worries, and even our most romantic sighs. Our heart inspires us the most romantic songs, but not a thorough review of how we forget to take care of it.

It is not that lovesickness affects the good state of the heart. Actually, there are more delicate problems that can do it. We do not tend to pay attention to them because they have complicated names that make us look away and return to our comfort zone. So, for health, let's face them:

  1. Hypertension: Blood is pumped by the heart through the arteries, which receive certain pressure due to the force of impulse, known as blood pressure. If this pressure becomes excessive, hypertension appears. Various causes such as excessive consumption of tobacco, salt or alcohol, obesity and age increase the risk of suffering from it.
  1. Rheumatic heart disease: a bacteria called streptococcus can attack our throats to the point of producing a condition called rheumatic fever, which can damage the valves of the heart, responsible for blood flow in the right direction.
  1. High cholesterol: It is not that this lipid substance (similar to fat) is bad in itself. On the contrary, its functions include being the body's energy reserve and helping to produce hormones, vitamin D (essential for bone health) and other substances. Its excess, due mainly to diets too greasy, is what affects the body.
  1. Atrial fibrillation: The heart is the rhythmic organism of the body per excellence. Its rhythm obeys a specific pattern that determines the proper distribution of blood. If this pattern is altered, so-called cardiac arrhythmias appear. The most common of these situations is atrial fibrillation, due to a disorder of the heart's electrical system.

Dr. Angela Moreno, a surgeon at the National University of Colombia and a specialist in Integral Medicine at the Juan N. Corpas University, points out that there is also a systemic heart disease, that is, "when the heart is not receiving oxygenated blood for itself, possibly by some blocked artery, or because of cerebrovascular diseases, or cerebral infarcts".

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What makes the appearance of these and other diseases related to the heart more delicate is that those who suffer from them do not realize their symptoms or they do not acknowledge them. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that by 2030, about 23.6 million people will die from cardiovascular diseases.

On the other hand, according to a report of WHO, the Latin American population has a high prevalence in cardiovascular diseases. That is, the cases reported of people who have heart disease are very frequent.

According to studies, 31% of all deaths of people in the world are due to vascular diseases. More than 75% of these cardiovascular deaths occur in poor countries, which are developing nations, says Dr. Moreno.

Precisely, on September 20, the Latin American Cholesterol Summit that brought together members of international medical associations proposed a large-scale awareness campaign in our continent. This initiative aims to eliminate the barriers that prevent effective public health policies in terms of cardiovascular diseases.

This call to the governments is urgent if we take into account that 80% of heart-related diseases can be prevented and that 40% of the population of the continent has high cholesterol, according to Jean Luc Eiséle, President of the World Heart Federation. For his part, Raul Santos, president of the International Association of Arteriosclerosis, said that one in three people in Latin America will die due to cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Moreno reiterates that “although these diseases cause so many deaths, they can also be prevented. Most of them are not inherited. They have to do, mainly, with the lifestyle. What most tends to predispose this type of diseases are overweight and obesity, physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle, the consumption of cigarettes and alcohol, regardless of age or gender. If a person is sedentary and obese, if they smoke, if they have poor eating habits, consume enough carbohydrate and calorie foods such as flour, bakery, and consume very few vegetables, fruits and whole grains, all this increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, it does not matter if you are a young person or older, woman or man ".

It is better to take appropriate measures to give the heart its fair treatment. Here, some recommendations:

  1. Perform physical activity based on the particular needs of each person. Here you have to seek specialized advice, because a specific exercise routine serves some, but not others. The gym is not necessarily the answer.
  2. Control what you eat to avoid overweight. A low fat diet of animal origin is recommended, it should be rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish.
  3. Go to the doctor for periodic check-ups, which should be four times a year to control cholesterol.
  1. Do not abuse alcoholic beverages and quit smoking.
  1. Measure blood pressure regularly.

Apart from the wake-up call, it is inevitable to ask how willing Latin American governments are to follow the sensible recommendations of specialists, how feasible it is for the population of the continent to access conditions to put into practice recommendations and, even more delicate, if people are willing to do so with changes in appropriate habits based on peremptory educational campaigns. It is a question that goes far beyond singing: "Heart, heart! I do not want to kill you, my heart".

 

LatinAmerican Post | Carlos Novoa
Translated from “El reto de cuidar el corazón latinoamericano”

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