World Heart Day: How well do you know your heart? September 29, 2023 – Posted in: General News
World Heart Day is celebrated globally on September 29 to raise awareness of heart disease and to champion advocacy for the prevention of heart disease.
This year’s World Heart Day theme is ‘Use Heart, Know Heart’.
The theme is a reminder to everyone to take the time to know about their hearts as the first step to prevent heart disease.
Knowledge about your heart is an important first step in the management of heart diseases, because you can only protect what you know and cherish.
The more you know your heart, the better you can take care of your heart.
Heart diseases are a major cause of preventable deaths worldwide.
This knowledge gives everyone an opportunity to take responsibility for their heart health by taking the necessary steps to protect their hearts.
Diseases of the heart
Diseases of the heart and blood vessels include strokes, heart failure, and heart attacks.
These diseases usually occur in individuals who have what we describe as risk factors.
A risk factor is a condition which increases a person’s chances of getting a disease.
These risk factors can be placed in two groups.
The first group describes risk factors that you may not be able to do much about.
They are therefore called non-modifiable.
These include aging, a family history of heart disease, being male, being a person of African descent or having a gene that may increase your risk for diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
There is another group of risk factors that is described as modifiable risk factors.
This is because, a person can take steps to work on these factors so as to reduce their chances of getting heart disease.
These include having high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood sugar (diabetes), high levels of cholesterol in the blood, being overweight or obese, not exercising enough, drinking too much alcohol or smoking.
Additional factors such as air pollution are emerging as important risk factors for hypertension.
Hypertension is the most common risk factor for diseases of the heart and blood vessels in Ghana.
Unfortunately, in Ghana, almost four out of every 10 adults have hypertension.
Of this number, almost 50 per cent are not aware they have hypertension and only 46 per cent are on treatment.
Sadly, only four out of every 10 people with hypertension, have their blood pressures controlled.
This predisposes the majority of people with hypertension to diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as stroke, kidney disease, heart failure and heart attacks.
In Ghana, most people affected by the catastrophic consequences of uncontrolled hypertension are relatively young, between the ages of 30 to 50.
The loss of a life due to the complications of uncontrolled hypertension therefore has far reaching consequences on the family as a unit, the society, and the nation as a whole.
These consequences include the loss of livelihoods of families, the psychological impact on young spouses and children, and socio-economic impacts on communities and the nation at large.
Ghanaian Society of Cardiology
The Ghanaian Society of Cardiology (GSC) is a society of medical professionals in Ghana made up of primarily Cardiologists (a doctor specialised in the care of people with heart disease) and other doctors and health professionals who have interest in the care of patients with heart disease.
The society has a mandate of working to ensure that Ghanaians have healthy hearts through appropriate health education, training of health professionals, training of Cardiologists (heart specialists) and research.
The GSC has been concerned about the increasing menace of hypertension in Ghana and therefore has engaged in some strategic activities tailored at addressing this problem.
In May 2023, the GSC embarked on a national hypertension awareness campaign that saw heart health professionals raising awareness of hypertension through a social media campaign, health worker education on hypertension and mass hypertension screening and public education across five zones in the country, that is Accra, Ho, Tamale, Takoradi and Kumasi.
The GSC educated over 1000 health workers on how to appropriately measure blood pressure for an accurate diagnosis of hypertension and how to appropriately manage hypertension.
In the same month, over 2000 individuals were screened for hypertension nationwide.
The average age of the people screened was 48 years with almost 60 per cent being female.
Approximately 33 per cent of the number screened had a blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg. 64 per cent of this number were previously aware that they had hypertension. Among individuals who had a previous diagnosis of hypertension, approximately 40 per cent had their blood pressures well controlled.
Knowing your numbers
A person can only tell if they have high blood pressure (hypertension) if they get their blood pressure checked regularly.
For most people, a once yearly blood pressure check is appropriate.
However, if you have any of the risk factors for hypertension, your healthcare worker may advise more frequent checks such as quarterly or twice yearly.
Knowing your numbers is the first step to taking control so that you can get the help you need.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you must follow the advice of your doctor to keep your blood pressure under control.
This includes taking your blood pressure medications daily, exercising regularly, losing weight to a healthy weight range, reducing or quitting intake of alcohol, and quitting smoking.
Generally, heart disease can be prevented by knowing your risk factors and seeking help to manage them appropriately.
This World Heart Day, we encourage all adult Ghanaians to take steps to “use heart to know heart”.
Let us use this occasion of World Heart Day to Know more about the heart.
Check your blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.
Also take steps to increase your physical activity levels, reduce or quit intake of alcohol and quit smoking.
You may seek professional help if you are finding it hard to stay motivated to reduce these risk factors on your own.
Together, we can work to reduce the burden of heart disease in Ghana and ensure a healthy heart for all Ghanaians.
• This article is written on behalf of the Ghanaian Society of Cardiology by Dr. Dzifa Ahadzi, Senior Physician Specialist and Cardiologist, Tamale Teaching Hospital. Organising Secretary, Ghanaian Society of Cardiology.