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Published by: Dr. Subhi Isa Akleh, MBBCh, CABMS, MRCP, FSCMR
Published Date: 9/28/2023
World Heart Day 2023 - A Reminder to Care for our Hearts

World Heart Day, celebrated annually on 29 September,  is a reminder to everyone around the world to take care of their hearts. 

In a world where knowledge about heart health is limited, empowering individuals to take control of their well-being is our main goal. 

As you all know, heart disease is a leading cause of death. Some of the risk factors for it cannot be modified, such as family history, gender or age. But there are plenty of other measures to lower your risk of heart disease. On this special day, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the main risk factors and how to control them. 

Regular blood pressure screenings usually start at around the age of 18, blood pressure should be measured at least once every two years. This checks for high blood pressure as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. If you're between 18 and 39 and have risk factors for high blood pressure, you have to be screened once a year. People aged 40 and older are also given a blood pressure test yearly.

Cholesterol screening is recommended every 1 to 2 years in women aged 55 to 65 and men aged 45 to 65. People over 65 should get their cholesterol tested once a year. Early cholesterol screening, starting in adolescence, may be recommended if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of early-onset heart disease. After the first cholesterol test, screenings should be repeated every five years.

Diabetes involves ongoing high blood sugar levels. It raises the chances of getting heart disease. Risk factors for diabetes include being overweight and having a family history of diabetes. If you have any of the risk factors, it is recommended to undergo early screening. If not, screening is recommended starting at the age of 45. Then you should get your blood sugar levels tested again every three years. 

One of the best things you can do for your heart is to stop smoking or using smokeless tobacco. Even if you're not a smoker, be sure to stay away from a smoke-filled environment. Chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke lowers the oxygen in the blood, which raises blood pressure and heart rate. The risk of heart disease starts to drop as little as a day after quitting. After a year without cigarettes, the risk of heart disease drops to about half that of a smoker regardless of how long or how much you smoked.

The second most important measure is regular and daily physical activity. It can lower the risk of heart disease and helps control your weight. It also lowers the chances of getting other conditions that may put a strain on the heart. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.

If you haven't been active for a while, you may need to slowly work your way up to these goals. As a general rule, we recommend 30 to 60 minutes of daily walks. Other activities such as gardening, housekeeping and taking the stairs they all count. You don't have to exercise hard to benefit. But you can see bigger benefits if you boost the intensity, length and frequency of your workouts.


Furthermore, a healthy diet can help protect the heart, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean Diet. It includes vegetables and fruits, beans or other legumes, lean meats and fish, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, whole grains and healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado. It also encourages restricting salt, sugar or sweetened beverages, highly refined carbohydrates and alcohol. It also recommends reducing saturated fat, which is found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, palm oil and coconut oil, Trans fat which is found in some fried fast food, chips and baked goods.

A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight which is linked with higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Even a small weight loss can be good for you. Reducing weight by just 3% to 5% can help lower certain fats in the blood called triglycerides. It can lower blood sugar, also called glucose. And it can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes. Losing even more helps lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.

Another forgotten risk factor for heart disease is the lack of sleep. People who don't get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. In order to achieve that, set a sleep schedule and stick to it. If you feel like you get enough sleep but you're still tired throughout the day, visit your doctor as you may need to be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea. It's a condition that can raise your risk of heart disease. Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring, stopping breathing for short times during sleep and waking up gasping for air. Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea may involve losing weight if you're overweight. It also might involve using a device that keeps your airway open while you sleep.

Adding to the list, stress is another factor that plays a role in higher blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. Some people cope with stress in unhealthy ways such as overeating, drinking or smoking. Ongoing stress may be linked with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. These conditions also are tied to heart disease risk factors, including higher blood pressure and less blood flow to the heart. You can boost your health by finding other ways to manage stress. Healthy tactics include physical activity, relaxation exercises, mindfulness, yoga and meditation. If stress becomes overwhelming, get a health care checkup. 

At the end, I would like to conclude that identifying the abovementioned risk factors and controlling them is the first step in leading a healthy life. This may seem simple, but the effects of cardiovascular disease can be devastating and a little bit of work and regular maintenance can go a long way towards preventing heart disease. This World Heart Day, listen to your heart and get on the path towards a healthier life!


Link to : Cardiology Department
ink to : Dr Subhi Isa Akleh


The author, Dr. Subhi Isa Akleh, MBBCh, CABMS, MRCP, FSCMR,  has over 18 years of experience in the management of cardiovascular diseases. He obtained training in Internal Medicine and Cardiology in Bahrain and subsequently became a member of the Royal College of Physicians (UK). He further pursued Cardiology and Advanced Cardiac Imaging Fellowship at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, UK. Dr. Subhi’s clinical practice focuses on diagnostic Cardiology and non-invasive management of patients with heart diseases.
Published by

Dr. Subhi Isa Akleh, MBBCh, CABMS, MRCP, FSCMR

Consultant Cardiologist 

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