More than 500 million people live with cardiovascular disease (CVD), and more than 18 million succumb to it each year. Cardiology keeps progressing with improved diagnostics such as imaging, genetics, biomarkers, new treatments, and devices to open arteries or regulate heart rhythm. There are many approaches towards heart health including these five:
Get in the know: Risks to heart health include high cholesterol levels; another is hypertension or high blood pressure which affects more than 1.3 billion people worldwide. In addition to available medications, weight management, reduced salt intake, eliminating foods with trans fats, physical activity, and avoiding harmful use of alcohol can mitigate these risks. Diverse symptoms can signal heart trouble and they are not always chest pain and indigestion; for example, women might experience jaw, arm and shoulder pain, nausea, fatigue and dizziness, among others.
Get screened: When policies and programmes encourage available and affordable testing and screening, more people have a better chance of knowing and managing their risks. Early screening for hypertension starting at 18 years of age can be repeated regularly and especially for those most at-risk. Screening can also be done in the workplace, schools, and pharmacies.
Adapt lifestyle: Tobacco, harmful alcohol consumption and stress all threaten heart health or exacerbate existing heart conditions. A healthy diet and regular, even moderate, exercise are high priorities for preventing heart disease; so too are quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption.
Adhere to treatment: Patients’ well-being and health prospects entail sticking to treatment plans yet adherence to medication can sometimes be one of the most challenging goals. With growing digital health interventions (DHIs), reminders via text message are among the most basic tools. “Digital literacy” among patients and clinicians is an opportunity to increase efforts in education and training.
Connect: DHIs from mobile (mHealth) apps, telehealth consultations, and wearable devices can expand healthcare access and reduce cardiovascular mortality, disease, and disability. Access to digital tools must also be a priority for the world’s most vulnerable communities. Connection is also interpersonal: good rapport between patients and their medical caregivers helps patients on their health journey. Community groups, counselling, and other outreach foster a supportive environment for more favourable outcomes and quality of life.
Up to 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented yet many people, and the most vulnerable, remain susceptible. The World Heart Observatory, launched with the support of the Novartis Foundation, is a unique portal showing the prevalence, partnerships and opportunities to meet the cardiovascular health challenge. The World Heart Vision 2030 outlines four paths to making care accessible, equitable and affordable. Investing in health leads to long-term savings, improved lives, and more thriving societies.
Article translated into Swedish for the “Cardiovascular Health in Sweden” project by Mediaplanet.