Heart Healthy Environment
‘The places where we live, work and play should not increase our risk of heart diseases’
We worked hard so that one day, we will rest and enjoy the fruit of our labour. But our lifestyle resulting from improved socio-economic condition in turn becomes a cause for ill health. We thought we worked hard so that one day, we will work less. But now, we are advised to work out to prevent illnesses. We walked to earn food. Now we walk to digest food.
The nature of work has so much changed so that work now means moving the fingers across the computer keyboard. We now travel several kilometres to work but in the comfort of a car/bus seat. We have gadgets and appliances in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom which have reshaped how we live. How we normally live i.e. our sedentary lifestyle has become a risk factor for developing chronic illnesses.
The new epidemic of chronic lifestyle diseases did not come in with a bang, like an outbreak of infectious disease. When there is a food poisoning outbreak from a wedding party and hundreds of people check into a hospital, everyone takes notice. But when equal number of people from that wedding develops heart diseases over the years because of continued consumption of the type of food served in the wedding, no one notices. That is what is happening with disease trend. Chronic diseases like heart diseases, cancers, diabetes, stroke, etc are silently taking over the world. They are already responsible for 68% of all deaths globally and are set to rise.
‘The places where we live, work and play should not increase our risk of heart diseases’ says the World Heart Federation. Tuesday, September 29 is World Heart Day and this year, the focus will be on creating ‘Heart healthy environment’. In Nagaland, the medical department is appealing to the churches (and through other platforms) to spread awareness through health talk on the four main risk factors of heart diseases and stroke. 80% of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented if these four risk factors – unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and harmful use of alcohol – are controlled.
Once they are developed, it is difficult and costly to treat these disease conditions. But preventing them by going for morning walks, restricting salt intake, and avoiding tobacco/alcohol are not beyond us. The pressing need is to awaken our consciousness to the danger so that our behaviour will be changed. Not only are we unaware of the danger of such diseases because of their slow progress, we don’t notice the risk factors because they are part and parcel of our normal lifestyle.
Some, you have to do it on our own. You can choose to stop smoking. You can train your tongue to get used to less salt in diet. You can make a physical activity plan, or set personal target to reduce weight. You can teach your kids to enjoy fruits and go out and play instead of letting them munch potato chips and watch television. But some, we have to do it together. We need more parks and playgrounds in the neighbourhood for walking and playing. We can form health clubs. We need to restrict sale of tobacco and junk food around schools. We can advice our office canteens to offer healthy food choices. We need to make laws or enforce them, for example on food safety, urban development, tobacco taxation, etc. And we need to make healthy lifestyle popular, and encourage people to make healthy lifestyle choices.