World Heart Day

Raising public awareness of heart health


Today is 29 September. This day is observed every year around the world as the World Heart Day. Like other countries, Bangladesh is observing the day with the World Heart Federation’s theme, “My Heat, Your Heart.” As the theme suggests, Bangladesh finds a good opportunity to participate with the global countries in such activities that build public awareness about human heart health, and heart diseases. Moreover, Bangladesh gets a unique chance to express her solidarity and unanimity with other global countries in celebrating the day. On this occasion, different hospitals and research institutions specialized on heart diseases arrange and celebrate the day through various programs and events in order to create and promote awareness and consciousness among the people about the cardiovascular diseases and the risk factors that develop the coronary disease.

The World Heart Federation is the world’s largest platform to raise awareness about cardiovascular diseases and stroke. This theme of the World Heart Federation reminds the world people of taking care of their heart health, and abstaining from such activities, that are injurious to our hearts.  We must do such activities that keep our heart healthy and ensure our good health. At least, 80% of the premature deaths due to cardiovascular diseases can be protected by controlling some risk factors such as unhealthy diet, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and use of alcohol.

 Heart disease is a deadly killer. According to the World Health Organization, it is the number one killer in the advanced world and in the third world countries; it is the number three killer. In addition, every year about 17, 900,000 (one crore and seventy-nine lakh) people die from heart disease and heart attack, which is about 31% of all global deaths. Moreover, many more persons suffer from heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases and lead a substandard and miserable life. The deaths and sufferings from the disease is one of the worst scenarios in human history. 

Realizing the alarming number of deaths from heart diseases, and the need to prevent the approach of the heart diseases, and to make people aware of the risk factors of the disease, an International Society of Cardiology was established in 1946, and thereafter, an International Cardiology Federation was founded in 1970. Later, both the organizations were merged to form the International Society and Federation of Cardiology in 1978. However, subsequently the International Society and the Federation of Cardiology were given the new name as the World Heart Federation in 1998. Since then this Geneva-based nongovernmental organization has been rendering services for the people in more than 100 countries. From 1999, the World Heart Federation observed the World Heart Day on the last Sunday of September until 2010. However, from 2011, 29 September was chosen and fixed as the date for observing the World Heart Day around the globe. Since then, 29 September has been observed and celebrated as the World Heart Day. World Heart Federation takes the initiatives to arrange and celebrate the day every year around the world and makes people aware as to how to keep the heart healthy and lead a healthy life.

The World Heart Federation launches a campaign every year on 29 September and plays an important role to raise awareness among individuals, families, communities and governments to be careful and cautious about the heart health. This day assures and ensures that everybody will have access to treatment and medicine for heart diseases. However, it will be borne in mind, “Prevention is better than cure.” Therefore, everybody should know the risk factors that cause heart diseases, and should avoid those to escape heart diseases. 

 The worst risk factor for coronary disease is the increase in blood of a fatty substance called cholesterol. The higher is the cholesterol level, the more is the risk to develop coronary disease because in this case the fatty substances deposit in the coronary artery, narrow down the passage, obstruct  blood flow of coronary artery, and cause coronary heart disease. 

Smoking is one of the risk factors that cause heart disease because smoking damages the lining of arteries, leading to a deposit of fatty substances which narrow and constrict the passage of coronary arteries and cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.

High blood pressure is another risk factor which forces the heart to work harder, which may bring on a heart attack. Too much oily food produces trans-fats which raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower the levels of good cholesterol in the blood and cause heart disease.

Diabetes is another risk factor of heart disease because diabetes can damage the blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop heart disease. The most common causes of death of adults with diabetes are heart diseases and stroke. At least 68 percent of people of the age of 65 or older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease and 16% die of stroke.

 Obesity and overweight can increase bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and can lower good high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is important for removing bad cholesterol, or low density lipoproteins (LDL). Obese individuals require more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to their bodies, which cause an increase in blood pressure. 

Stress makes the heart pump faster, and stress hormones cause the blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to the muscles so you will have more strength to take action. However, this also raises blood pressure. As a result, frequent or chronic stress will make the heart work too hard and will cause problems in the heart.

Fried foods, like French fries, fried chicken and fried snacks increase the risk of heart disease. Conventional frying methods create trans fats, a type of fat that raises the bad type of cholesterol and lower the good one.

Drinking too much or more than the standard amount of any alcoholic drink increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.  According to systematic reviews and medical associations, people who are nondrinkers should not start drinking wine. 

Sedentary lifestyles and physical inactivity pose a greater heart disease risk to men and women over 30 than smoking, obesity or high blood pressure, new health data from Australia has shown it.

Lack of physical activity is a big risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Less active and less fit people have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure. Physical activity can reduce risk for type 2 diabetes. 

 If a person is not physically active, he increases his health risks in many ways. He develops coronary heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, breathlessness, flabby body, and may develop any heart disease. In that case, he must have regular exercise to protect him from heart disease.

 On the other hand, exercise ensures heart health, and heart health promotes overall physical health. In other words, exercise makes the heart function well and keeps disease away. Exercise includes walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis and jumping rope etc. Many benefits happen in our body when we take regularly any one of the exercises. Let us briefly discuss befits of walking: 

Walking  strengthens our heart and increases our heart rate and blood circulation through the body, and it brings more oxygen and nutrients to the organs. Walking burns our excess body fat which is very dangerous to our heart and health. Walking also warms up our muscles and stretches them out through motion and releases tension. Again, walking stimulates the digestive tract and helps digestion and lower blood sugar which causes cardiovascular risks. Walking builds strength and endurance and leads to stronger leg bones. Walking increases demand for energy which results in an increase in metabolism.  On top of it, walking in the sun is a surprising source of Vitamin D which is essential for our healthy bone and teeth. Walking calms us down by sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses, and we get mental clarity and composure.  Walking brings better night sleep because walking boosts the effect of the natural sleep hormone melatonin. Walking boosts endorphins, which put us in a better mood. Therefore, taking regular exercise brings us the benefits to enjoy good heart and health.

In fact, lack of exercise is the single worst risk factor for heart disease for both men and women. When we stop exercising, many physiological changes occur in us. We  begin to lose the cardiovascular gains  that we  have made, such as  our heart's ability to pump blood more efficiently, our body's improved capability to use carbohydrates for fuel, and our  muscles' enhanced capacity to process oxygen. Our muscles weaken and lose bulk including the muscles we need for breathing and the large muscles in your legs and arms. We will become breathless if we do less activity. Despite this, about 70 per cent of adults do not do enough exercise. 

 Human heart is a muscular pumping organ. It is made of tireless powerful muscle. Human heart fully develops about eight weeks after conception, right, when the embryo is only about 2.5 centimeters long. The heart begins to beat even earlier—four weeks after conception, when it is just a tube. Heart supplies blood and blood carries food, nutrient, oxygen, hormones (chemical messengers) disease-fighting cells. These disease-fighting cells go to the infection area surround the infection site, destroy, and kill the infection cells. Blood also regulates body temperature. 

Uninterrupted and continuous supply and circulation of blood is possible for a good   and healthy heart.  A good and healthy heart works ceaselessly and incessantly. It never stops its beat during lifetime of a human being. It stops only when a human being dies.  According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, “At the rate of 72 times each minute, the adult human heart beats are 104,000 times a day, 38, 000, 000 times a year.”  We find that hearts work continuously and tremendously. Therefore, we must take care of the heart to sustain its health.  

In conclusion, it may be said,”The World Heart Day” is a historic day for humankind. It is because this historic day creates awareness of heart heath, and the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. This day encourages and motivates people to be aware of heart and health. Once people are aware, they can avoid such foods, lifestyle, habits that are injurious to coronary diseases. However, on this day they can come to know as to how to maintain healthy heart and good health. They come to know how awareness saves them from heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, obesity, cholesterol, overweight, mental illness. Furthermore, people can be aware of the need for regular exercise, which keeps our heart and health good and perfect. The day also warns us against the sedentary and ideal life which brings heart and health hazards. However, once the people are conscious, they will do everything to maintain good heart and health.  We know heath is better than wealth. There goes a saying, “An ounce of health is better than a ton of gold.” Wealth cannot bring any peace and comfort to a person who has ill health. Everyone should come forward to participate in the celebration and observance of the day for the enhancement and promotion of human health. I urge every member of a family to have discussion with other members and make them aware of heart health, and save them from premature death from the heart disease killer. In addition, let everybody be heart hero. 


The writer is a former Joint Secretary to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and regular contributor to the Bangladesh Post