Last week Rwanda Heart Foundation in partnership with NCD Alliance, Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Team Heart and other partners organised a ‘World Heart Week’- an awareness campaign that aimed at giving a voice to those living with cardiovascular diseases.
These activities were held in relation to World Heart Day that was celebrated last week as well.
World Heart Day is marked on the 29th of September every year to raise awareness about cardiovascular diseases, their prevention and its global impact.
Under the theme ‘Use heart to beat cardiovascular diseases,’ the campaign sought to call on everyone to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases; most of which tend to be a result of unhealthy lifestyles people are exposed to.
Understanding heart diseases
Evariste Ntaganda, the cardiovascular diseases officer at RBC says there are many heart diseases and these depend on which part of the heart is affected- these are normally referred to as cardiovascular diseases.
He says that cardiovascular diseases are on the rise and this is why much effort is put on awareness when it comes to prevention.
According to World Health Organisation, 17.9 million people die of heart diseases every year.
80 percent of these deaths happen in low and middle income countries including Rwanda.
Dr Uwinkindi, head of Non-Communicable Diseases division at RBC says prevention is vital in dealing with heart diseases. Photo: Courtesy.
Meanwhile, collective data done in Rwanda indicates that in the year 2018/2019, the leading cause of death was heart diseases. Out of this, 40 percent were due to non-communicable diseases in general. And the major causes of heart diseases were hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes.
Francois Uwinkindi, head of Non-Communicable Diseases division at RBC says 15.3 percent of adult people have high blood pressure.
According to him, numbers from the health facilities (there are at least 120 people with cardiovascular diseases) indicate that there are still other people in the community living with heart diseases who haven’t been diagnosed yet.
Risk factors and prevention
To prevent these conditions, Professor Joseph Mucumbitsi, a cardiologist and president of Rwanda Heart Foundation and Rwanda NCD Alliance, says it’s important to treat hypertension and diabetes, which are among the causes of most heart diseases.
Most importantly, he says staying away from risk factors such as obesity, smoking, abuse of alcohol and being physically inactive is vital.
To live a healthy life free from cardiovascular diseases and other NCDs, Mucumbitsi says people must engage in physical exercises at least 30 minutes a day.
“Doing moderate exercises for 30 minutes a day which is equivalent to 150 minutes per week is important. Also, staying away from smoking, alcohol use as well as eating healthy by increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, cutting off on sugars, fats, and calories keeps you off from heart diseases,” he says.
According to Mucumbitsi, salt intake should as well be reduced. He says this is something that is not discussed often yet it is among the risk factors of heart diseases.
In fact, Mucumbitsi says too much salt intake is responsible for more than 3 million deaths that happen worldwide and that this is information is supported by research.
Risk factors include being obese, smoking among others. Net photo.
Uwinkindi notes that these best healthy practices should be adopted in every family by making them a culture so that everyone stays away from the risk factors that expose them to developing cardiovascular diseases.
He urges people to use their inner heart to fight off heart diseases and also to be able to take care of themselves.
“It’s recommended that one visits health facilities at least once a year for check-ups,” he advises.
Besides, he notes that it is essential to maintain healthy hearts to beat coronavirus citing that it has been shown that heart diseases and coronavirus are linked.
“When one has either one of the cardiovascular diseases and they are infected with coronavirus, it has been shown that such individuals not only have very high chances of having severe infections but are also likely to die from the virus,” he says.
According to Uwinkindi, the treatment of cardiovascular diseases is not only complicated but also expensive.
For this reason, he says prevention is the key as it will help reduce the mortality rate of cardiovascular diseases in the country.
Reinforcing healthy lifestyle
Rwanda NCD alliance in partnership with the Ministry of sports, RBC and the City of Kigali launched TV sports-where there will be a session of physical exercises on TV conducted by a physical expert. This will be done every Sunday (when there are no mass sports).
The expert will be carrying out deferent exercises for the viewers at home to follow and practice along with him.
According to Mucumbitsi, this is another possibility for people to do sports at home, especially those who are not able to take part in mass sports during the car-free day due to different reasons.
The initiative is expected to be disseminated on social media as well so that everyone can follow and participate.
“We will use this opportunity to organise brief education on NCDs at the end of every sport session. There will be at least 10 to 15 minutes for the talk revolving around a theme on sports and NCDs in general,” he says.
There will be a competition as well where a person will share their best video while doing exercises on their social media accounts- the one with the most views will be awarded.