The rising epidemic of chronic diseases – Cardiovascular Disease


Having a heart disease is becoming dangerously common and so are the illnesses leading to it. I have never seen anyone over the age to 40 not taking medications, be it for blood pressure, cholesterol or sugar. The scary thing is that many people get these chronic diseases without indulging into feisty risks. My father had a stent added due to blockage in one of his main arteries; his doctor told him that the problem was caused because my father is a chain smoker. Papa was told by the doctor to avoid smoking, to put a stop because the cigarettes are damaging the heart, to walk regularly and to eat healthy. Papa was very upset, being a smoker since his adolescence; the cigarettes are now a part of him. He didn’t like the doctor but then ironically his doctor too had to go through angioplasty, now his doctor never smoked a cigarette, walked daily, took heart healthy diet. Papa then went to meet Mr. Doctor specially and I remember him telling me on his way back that, “I asked him, what the problem for his angioplasty can be? He never smoked and did all the right things…” To his question papa’s doctor replied, “stress, fatigue, lack to rest..”

It is noted that in 200 out of a 1000 people these chronic issues are found to be generic, meaning that if they as much as munch on an extra bar of chocolate they are prone to get diabetes or if they indulge in unhealthy sleep patterns they are bound to get stress disorder leading to heart disease but this does not mean that avoiding chronic disease is impossible. The inter-heart studies show that having a healthy lifestyle i.e. exercising strenuously twice a week, walking briskly daily, keeping a healthy diet (avoiding trans and saturated fats), keeping a healthy sleep pattern, avoiding smoking/drinking alcohol and practicing mental peace helps reducing the risk of all chronic diseases by 90% in men and 92% in women, even in most generic of cases. It was found that in cases where lifestyle isn’t healthy or dirty habits are opted 70% to 80% heart attack exist even when patients are taking their medicines showing that just popping pills isn’t the solution, these issues can only be avoided if effort is done to improve upon one daily habits/life style.

The rising rate of cardiovascular disease in Pakistan

Pakistani population has one of the highest risks of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the world. In Pakistan, 30 to 40 per cent of all deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The CHD deaths in Pakistan have reached about 200,000 per year that is 410/100,000 of the population.
Children are vulnerable too; the risk for CVDs can begin before birth during fetal development, and increase further during childhood with exposure to unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and smoking.
The major risk factors are tobacco use, alcohol use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, stress and unhealthy diet. “The more risk factors you have the greater is the likelihood that you will suffer heart disease, unless you take action to modify your risk factors and work to prevent them compromising your health.

Fact Sheet
• 33% of Pakistani population above the age of 45 has hypertension
• Prevalence of hypertension is 19% in people of age 15 or above
• Pakistan ranks at number six in terms of number of people with diabetes worldwide.
• Diabetic patients will rise to 13.9 million by 2020, leading Pakistan to 4th most populous country.
• 25% of patients over the age of 45 years suffer Diabetes Mellitus.
• Prevalence of smoking has been reported to be 14-21% in adolescents and adults, being more common in men.
• The estimated annual incidences of stroke in Pakistan are 250/100,000, translating to 350,000 new cases
every year.
• Every 9th Pakistani is suffering from Liver Diseases. 300,000 patients have dire need of Liver Transplant.

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

The most common symptom of heart disease is angina, or chest pain. Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing, or painful feeling in your chest. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina may also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw, or back.
Other symptoms include

• Shortness of breath
• Palpitations (irregular heartbeats, or a “flip-flop” feeling in your chest)
• A faster heartbeat
• Weakness or dizziness
• Nausea
• Sweating

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
• Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone
• Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
• Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
• Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
• Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
• Rapid or irregular heartbeats

During a heart attack, symptoms typically last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or oral medications. Initial symptoms may start as a mild discomfort that progress to significant pain.
Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms, which is known as a “silent” myocardial infarction (MI). It occurs more often in people with diabetes.

If you think you are having a heart attack, DO NOT DELAY. Call for emergency help. Immediate treatment of a heart attack is very important to lessen the amount of damage to your heart.

Symptoms of Arrhythmias
When symptoms of arrhythmias, or an abnormal heart rhythm, are present, they may include:
• Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or “flip-flops” in your chest)
• Pounding in your chest
• Dizziness or feeling light-headed
• Fainting
• Shortness of breath
• Chest discomfort
• Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired)

Prevention is better than cure
As the saying goes, the cure for heart disease isn’t just expensive but is painful too. You don’t want to go about life knowing that every bit you take of the buttered toast is killing you, you need peace/calm and for that, starting today to change your habits, improving your lifestyle is highly important

• Know your blood pressure and keep it under control
• Exercise regularly
• Don’t smoke/drink alcohol or sugary drinks
• Get tested for diabetes and if you have it, keep it under control
• Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control
• Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
• Maintain a healthy weight

Sources: Journal of Pakistan Medical Association& National Health Survey (2011),,,