THE Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging people to protect their hearts and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

In a statement, CARPHA said cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) were the number one cause of death and illness among the population in Caribbean countries.

CVDs are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions.

People of African and Asian ancestry are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases than other racial groups. Therefore, CARPHA said people in the region were at very high risk of becoming affected by cardiovascular diseases.

“Some people are born with conditions that predispose them to heart disease and stroke. A pre-existing heart condition and other physiological factors, including diabetes, hypertension or high blood cholesterol also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

“However, most people who develop cardiovascular diseases, do so because of a combination of risk factors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity overweight and obesity, raised or high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking of tobacco and excessive use of alcohol. The more risk factors you expose yourself to, the higher your chance of developing CVDs,” the statement said.

The agency also noted that studies showed that cardiovascular disease risk can be reduced through consumption of healthy foods including adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, reducing body weight to normal levels, increasing physical activity, reducing blood pressure to normal levels, lowering cholesterol, stopping smoking and avoiding harmful use of alcohol.

Although some risk factors for CVDs such as age or family history, cannot be controlled, Dr. Glennis Andall-Brereton, senior technical officer for Non-Communicable Diseases at CARPHA urged all to “take responsibility for your health by making changes to reduce risk factors. Reducing risk factors improves your chances of leading a heart-healthy life.”

The agency said it continued to support member states in moving towards improving population health by reducing risk factors, to achieve reductions in premature deaths from cardiovascular disease and other NCDs in the population.

World Heart Day was observed on Sunday.


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