According to the World Health Organization, 17.3million people died from heart diseases and strokes (cardiovascular diseases, CVD) in 2008 which represented 30% of all global deaths. It is forecasted that the number of these deaths will increase to 23.3million by 2030. Sadly over 80% of CVD deaths take place in low and middle-income countries.
The statistics from Ghana is similarly staggering. In 1977, the urban and rural prevalence of Hypertension were reported to be 11.3% and 4.5% respectively. In 2004, a study of the greater Accra area found an urban prevalence of Hypertension to be 32.9% and a rural prevalence of 24.1%. (see http://ihdnghanacvd.wordpress.com/hypertension-research/)
What makes Ghana’s situation precarious is that there is generally a very low awareness rate. A study done in 2006 indicated a prevalence rate of 25.4%. Of those with hypertension, only a third had prior knowledge of their condition, and less than half of those who knew were on treatment. Of those who were on treatment only one-sixth were well controlled. (The changing patterns of hypertension in Ghana: a study of four rural communities in the Ga District. Addo J, Amoah AG, Koram KA.)
In spite of this gloomy picture the hope resides in the fact that 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable. Healthy diet, regular physical activity, and not using tobacco products are the keys to prevention.
It is known that physical inactivity is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease - in other words, if you don't exercise you dramatically increase your risk of dying from a heart attack.
Exercise is believed to be an elixir of life. The following reasons should compel one to take exercise more seriously.
• Being physically active can bolster good mental health and help you to manage stress, anxiety and even depression
• Regular exercise can help you achieve and maintain an ideal weight, which can be important in managing many health conditions, including diabetes.
• All exercises help strengthen bones and muscles to some degree, but weight-bearing exercise, such as running, is especially good in promoting bone density and protecting against osteoporosis.
• Different exercises help with all sorts of health niggles, such as digestion, poor posture and sleeplessness, and physical activity can be beneficial for a range of medical conditions, from diabetes to lower back pains.
• Exercising in groups such as keep fit clubs improves social life with better social networking.
As one ages its benefits continue to be immense
• More energy - exercise makes you feel more energetic, while sedentary life makes you sluggish.
• Improved sleep – it conditions your body and mind for a sound sleep.
• Stable weight - regular exercise helps to maintain healthy weight
• Improved circulation and lower blood pressure- Long-term exercise protects the inner lining of the blood vessels from age-related changes and makes them behave more like those of a young person. It reduces clogging in the blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks
• Delayed ageing – exercise strengthens your muscles, joints and bones as well as helping with mobility and balance, thus helps to prevent falls, which are the leading cause of injury and death for the over-75s.
• Improve cognitive ability-exercise has shown to build small blood vessels in the brain and thereby preventive cognitive decline and maintains the brain as one ages
• Keeps you less dependent- regular exercise as you age keeps you strong, mobile and less dependent on others
It is recommended engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day of the week will help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Regardless of one’s schedule the following are easy to follow regimen that will keep you healthy.
? Use the stairs instead of the elevator
? If a walking distance, avoid using a car
? Ride a bicycle instead of driving if you can
? Park your car at a distance from your destination so you can enjoy some brisk walking
? Press-ups every morning, or skip every day.
The most important thing to note is that a little exercise is better than nothing.
I will entreat all, to routinely check your weight, Blood pressures, sugar levels and also cholesterol levels, to help identify risks and early management.
As the citizenry adopts these healthy lifestyle habits, the benefit to the nation will become evident.
The cost of managing these heart diseases will be significantly reduced, thereby saving the nation millions.
Ghana will also benefit from the improved output of a healthy workforce.
Let us bear in mind that a holistic approach to health is the best approach. Avoid alcohol and tobacco use, adopt a healthy eating habit (including eating fruits and vegetables, limiting salt intake), live peaceably with all men and trust in Divine authority. These are timeless secrets to health and longevity.
AUTHOR: Dr Nathanael Adjei-Kyeremeh, a Medical Doctor
Holy Family Hospital, Berekum
Brong Ahafo Region