“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
This beautiful quote from The Little Prince may resonate with many of us. The heart has been something that has held the human race in thrall for millennia. However, when we are talking about a real, beating, life-giving heart, we must be less poetic and much more factual.
Because of the heart’s importance, there is a day dedicated to it – World Heart Day! Celebrated on Wednesday, 29 September, it has been set in place to “ raise awareness that CVD [cardiovascular disease], including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 17.9 million lives each year. In addition, the occasion highlights the actions that individuals can take to prevent and control CVD”.
CVD is responsible for nearly half of all NCD* deaths making it the world’s number one killer. World Heart Day is, therefore, the perfect platform to unite in the fight against CVD and reduce the global disease burden.
How to keep your heart healthy
Your heart is one of the most critical muscles in the body. Its function is to pump blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system. The pumped blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the body while carrying metabolic waste such as carbon dioxide to the lungs.
There are several ways in which to keep the heart healthy:
• Eat healthily
• Get active
• Stay at a healthy weight
• Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
• Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
• Drink alcohol only in moderation
• Manage stress
You should also be aware of sure signs that all may not be well.
Symptoms to look out for:
• Chest tightness or pressure
• Difficulty catching your breath
• Dizziness or fainting
• Fluid build-up
• Heart palpitations (heart pounding or racing)
• Pain or numbness in your legs or arms
• Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
Heart disease in Namibia
A study was conducted on coronary artery disease at the cardiac clinics in Windhoek, Namibia, in 2017 and 2018. This study aimed to determine and describe patients’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease is considered the most significant contributor to morbidity and mortality in men and women globally. It is a progressive atherosclerotic disorder of the coronary arteries that results in their narrowing or complete obstruction. Phenomena such as urbanisation and individual traits such as health literacy affect people’s exposure and vulnerability to coronary artery disease risk factors. As a developing country, Namibia is no exception. According to the study done in 2018, “respondents [of the questionnaire] had limited knowledge about coronary artery disease (CAD).” but did recognise undesirable elements in their health. Practices did not always correlate with knowledge, however, as the majority of the respondents were aware of the adverse effects of smoking and alcohol consumption but still indicated to have been smoking and consuming alcohol.
According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, Coronary Heart Disease Deaths in Namibia reached 1,408 or 8.03% of total deaths. The age-adjusted Death Rate is 138.38 per 100,000 population, ranks Namibia #79 in the world.
*A non-communicable disease, or NCD, is a medical condition or disease which by definition is non-infectious and cannot be passed from person to person. NCDs may be chronic diseases of long duration and slow progression, resulting in more rapid death such as a sudden stroke.