Wed | May 31, 2023

Why is heart care important

Published:Wednesday | February 22, 2023 | 12:28 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

Embracing a healthy lifestyle at any age can prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke. You are never too old, or too young, to begin taking care of your heart.

Your heart health is central to overall good health. It is responsible for pumping nutrient-rich blood throughout your body, supplying oxygen while removing toxins and waste. As the centre of your cardiovascular system, it is vitally responsible for just about everything that gives your body life, ranging from the transportation of oxygen to the success of your immune system.

According to Dr Ernest Madu, founder and consultant cardiologist at the Heart Institute of the Caribbean, the heart is a vital organ that is critically important for living well, as the organ generates the supply of blood with essential nutrients for the rest of the body.

A healthy heart, he said, is important for proper functioning of all the organs of the body, allowing them to function at their optimal level.

“Our heart function can be affected either by our genes or lifestyle. Genetic influences are more difficult to counter, but we can proactively alter lifestyle-related adverse effects. Even when genetically predisposed, we can modulate the impact by making healthy lifestyle choices,” Dr Madu said.

“Maintaining a healthy heart requires taking proactive steps to keep the heart healthy and at optimal levels of function. This includes regular exercise, avoidance of smoking, maintaining normal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Maintaining an ideal body weight is also very important in maintaining a normal heart,” Dr Madu added.

When you care for your heart, your entire body benefits. When your heart is healthy, all aspects of your physical health will be, too. A healthy heart means a better quality of life and allows us to function at our best.

“When the heart is not properly cared for, individuals are exposed to certain risks, including heart attacks, heart failure and sudden death. Many individuals who suffer a heart attack will not survive in the absence of urgent intervention. For those who survive, some, unfortunately, will continue to suffer the bad outcomes, including heart failure,” Dr Madu said.

About 50 per cent of people with heart failure, he said, may not survive more than five years from diagnosis. “For many, there will be significant functional limitations in activities of daily living, resulting in significant disability. Access to care will be a major problem for many people, as the cost of care may make it difficult or impossible for many to obtain what would be considered optimal care,” Dr Madu said.

Although many people develop some form of cardiovascular disease – a catch-all term for all of the diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels – as they get older, it is not inevitable. A healthy lifestyle, especially when started at a young age, goes a long way to preventing cardiovascular disease.

Lifestyle changes and medications can nip heart-harming trends, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, in the bud before they cause damage. And a variety of medications, operations, and devices can help support the heart if damage occurs.

“It is important to lower the risk of heart disease for multiple reasons, including extension of healthy years of life, reduction in disability, increase in productive years of life, reduction in healthcare costs, and positive impact on the national economic outlook due to increased productivity,” Dr Madu said.

Most importantly, he said, reducing the risk of heart disease will reduce the risk of premature deaths and preserve social cohesion within families by preserving the lives of the breadwinners.