by Catherine Tims
What if millions of worldwide deaths could be prevented just by making a few simple lifestyle changes?
While World Heart Day is a day of awareness and celebration in the United States, for much of the rest of the world, it’s a chance to spread the message that there’s still much to be done.
In the United States, we’ve made significant progress when it comes to fighting heart disease, but cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death worldwide. Every year across the globe, 17.1 million people die from heart disease and stroke.
But the real take-away here is that, according to the World Heart Federation, the organizer of World Heart Day, most of those 17.1 million deaths are completely preventable. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that one of the easiest ways to do so is by addressing certain lifestyle choices, and World Heart Day is only a small part of raising awareness.
The United States has (some) reason to celebrate
In the United States, there is some good news to share when it comes to heart disease. A recent twelve-year study performed by researchers at Yale and Harvard should make our public health officials and medical community proud. The study – which analyzed Medicare data – shows that from 1999 to 2011, hospitalization rates for heart-related problems actually went down. And in the past decade, deaths from cardiovascular disease have decreased dramatically.
But let’s not get too carried away.: heart disease is still the top killer in our country, according to the CDC. To keep things in perspective, 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. can still be attributed to heart disease. We’ve made progress, but especially on World Heart Day, we still have work to do.
Heart disease in the developing world
In India, where a high-fat diet, low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity are becoming more prevalent, cardiovascular disease has become an epidemic. Did you know that India is now considered the coronary capital of the world? According to an Indian Heart Watch (IHW) study, cardiovascular disease awareness is very low, even among middle-class urban Indians who are literate.
Overall, almost three quarters of non-communicable diseases (of which heart disease represents the bulk) occur in developing nations. From the same source, we learn that the “globalization of unhealthy lifestyles” is to blame, along with out-of-control urbanization and of course, aging.
Awareness is the key to reversing this terrible global trend. World Heart Day is one way to start spreading the word that cardiovascular disease is, in most instances, preventable. So today, let’s all think of even more ways we can build a healthy lifestyle, and combat heart disease here and around the world.