On WHO’s antidote to heart-related diseases

As a result of the prevalence of heart-related diseases all over the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has come up with a new concept aimed at bringing down the pandemic rather than the pandemic bringing down people. ELEOJO IDACHABA takes a look at the initiative.

Nigerians in uncountable numbers have been brought down by heart diseases otherwise known as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) with many manifesting in the form of stroke, high blood pressure and brain damage. In many instances, some of them are not even reported because of the prevalence in rural areas.

Generally, it is estimated that deaths resulting from CVD-related diseases around the world account for more than 50 per cent annually.

According to Check Up health journal, cardiovascular diseases are the world’s leading cause of death. It noted that in 2016 alone, 17.6 million people died from CVDs comprising 31% of global mortality. This is also according to the WHO report.

In the U.S., the journal noted that heart diseases are the leading causes of deaths with approximately 647,000 per year, quoting the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Approximately, it stated that 121.5 million U.S. adults have some forms of cardiovascular ailments which they walk with everyday. Another revelation is that more than 75% of CVD-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries according to the World Health Organisation. That is why the World Heart Federation predicts that there would be more than 23 million CVD-related deaths per year by 2030.

Furthermore, American heart disease statistics shows that one out of every four deaths in the United States is as a result of cardiovascular disease. It revealed further that each heart condition has different symptoms, but the common warning signs include chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, numb or cold extremities, fatigue, and light-headedness.

Most cardiovascular diseases, according to that report, stem from interferences with the heart’s normal functions. The report added that plaque build-up, blood clots, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity can all contribute to heart disease.

“The good news however is that many of those conditions are preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet,” it noted.

In Nigeria, for instance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016 revealed that non-communicable diseases were estimated to account for 29% of all deaths, of which CVDs contributed 11%. CVDs which have been found to be on the increase over the past 20 years in Nigeria include hypertension, heart failure, and stroke. This statistics, the global body noted, has not receded annually because of the unhealthy lifestyle of the people in terms of food intake and daily exercise.

According to the Nigerian Journal of Cardiology report, “Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a leading cause of death worldwide with an accelerated increase in CVD-related deaths in Nigeria and other low-income and middle-income countries. A review of the trend of presentation and management of CVDs in Nigeria over the past 20 years revealed a transition from high incidence of CVDs associated or resulting from poverty and malnutrition (such as rheumatic heart disease) initially to a fall in the prevalence of these poverty-related CVDs occurring subsequently at same time with a rising prevalence of other non-communicable CVDs such as hypertension and heart failure. 

“Although some CVDs such as coronary heart disease and cardio-myopathies maintained a steady prevalence within the period in review, this trend was associated with changing availability of healthcare services in Nigeria, with better services and newer treatments becoming more available over time and increasing prevalence of CVD risk factors among Nigerians. 

“Despite these, Nigeria is at a plateau now as a result of poor funding and support of the health sector. This has resulted in most health funding coming from donor agencies, religious bodies, philanthropists and non-governmental organisations. “For progress, there is a need for an increase focus in the health sector with increased funding and support from the government and all players.

“Increased awareness and education of the general population on the prevention and control of risk factors and training of health professionals on appropriate diagnosis and management of CVDs is advocated.”

Likely causes

Accordingly to a Blueprint Newspapers editorial, there are many factors responsible for heart ailments.

“Some of these include over-eating, unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high glucose level and lack of exercise. High salt intake and cigarette smoking also contribute to the phenomenon. Available statistics show that high consumption of salt accounts for approximately 2.5 million people dying annually from CVD.

“Inhaling of smoke from tobacco is another major cause of heart diseases. While government at all levels has been making attempts at discouraging cigarette smoking especially in public places, manufacturers of the product have devised ways and means of keeping their stranglehold on smokers through aggressive marketing and attractive packaging of the product.

“Statistics also show that between five and six million people die of tobacco-related diseases yearly, taking along a huge number of secondary smokers, i.e. those who hang around smokers. In a similar vein, about 2.5 million lives are lost annually to alcohol consumption. Inhalation of cigarette smoke and excessive alcohol content in the system all rub off the heart with fatal consequences.”

The ‘Heart to Connect’

It is on account of the devastation that CVD has caused people all over the world that WHO is advocating a concept through what it calls ‘Heart to Connect’ with the hope that it would reduce the occurrence to the barest minimum.

Therefore while marking the 2021 World Heart Day; the global body noted that the theme is intended to harness the power of digital health to improve awareness, prevention and management of cardio Vascular Disease (CVD). 

The World Heart Federation (WHF) strongly believes that the theme has a huge role to play as the world continues to use heart to beat the killer ailment.

The World Heart Federation (WHF) reports that, “Heart diseases and stroke are the world’s leading causes of death, snuffing lives out of over 19.3m people yearly. These fatalities are more than victims of cancer, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. The developing world accounts for about 80 per cent of the fatalities. The WHF’s mandate is to prevent and control cardiovascular ailment through awareness campaigns and action, physical activity at individual, community and policy maker levels.”

On many occasions, heart diseases have caused many fatalities in the country especially among individuals that are perceived to be healthy.

The Foundation stated further that, “The healthcare crisis we’ve all been living through has highlighted an urgent need to find different and innovative ways to connect people to heart health, particularly in lower resource areas and communities.

“Harnessing the power of digital health to improve awareness, prevention and management of CVD globally is our goal for Word Heart Day 2021. Telehealth; therefore, has a huge role to play as we continue to use heart to beat CVD.

“Use Heart to Connect is about using your knowledge, compassion and influence to make sure you, your loved ones and the communities you’re part of have the best chance to live heart-healthy lives. It’s about connecting with our own hearts, making sure we’re fuelling and nurturing them as best we can and using the power of digital to connect every heart, everywhere.”

It noted further that, “Disconnected hearts are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke due to lack of access to CVD prevention, treatment and control, yet half the world’s population doesn’t have access to internet connectivity.

“Technology and data would help us bridge the gap and do it fast. It is about enabling and empowering everyone, everywhere, young and old, men, women and children, patients, community health workers, doctors to use digital tools for better prevention, diagnosis and care of heart-related conditions.

“Not all hearts are equal, but they should be and digital health can help to redress the balance.”


As a form of prevention, the global heart foundation stated that, “Look after your heart by eating healthy diets; say no to tobacco, but get plenty of exercise. Digital tools like phone apps and wearable can really help you to get motivated and stay on track.

“If you have an underlying health condition such as heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity, don’t let Covid-19 stop you from attending your regular check-ups. And never avoid calling the emergency services if you need to. It’s safe and medical professionals are there for you.”

According to Awareness Day, a medical response publication, World Heart Day is celebrated on September 29 of every year. It is aimed at drawing people’s attention to heart illness and the range of associated health issues.

It states that the Day is commemorated to promote different preventative steps and changes in lifestyle to avoid any cardiovascular diseases, like heart attack, stroke, heart failure and any other condition related to the same. On average, more than 17 million people die from heart-related illnesses every year. This is a more than that of people who die from HIV, malaria and cancer.

That day was launched in 2000 by the World Heart Federation as an annual event that was planned to be taking place every last Sunday of September. However, they decided to fix it on every 29th day of September and it has been celebrated on that day ever since.

It added that both governmental and non-governmental organisations celebrate the Day from all over the globe by organising activities like marathons, walks, public talks, fitness sessions, exhibitions and science fairs. Some landmarks, monuments and famous buildings choose to go red on this day as a show of cardiovascular disease awareness.

“Therefore, any person interested in celebrating this day is advised to do so by being more attentive to their heart health. There are several ways one can do that, including partaking in physical exercises, stopping smoking, quitting alcohol and starting eating a healthy diet. Also, have your heart, blood pressure and cholesterol checked frequently.”

Wise counsel

A nutritionist at the Nigerian Institute of Agricultural Research and Training Ibadan, Dr. Bose Makanjuola, however, said eating an egg per day can reduce one’s chances of developing heart-related diseases and stroke.

She made the disclosure on the sideline of the celebration of World Egg Day a few days ago.

According to her, the consumption of an egg per day could also help to ensure a healthy life. She said eggs are healthy for humans and should form part of people’s diet provided they are eaten in moderation.

“It can be prepared, boiled, poached, baked or scrambled with healthy oils and paired with healthy foods. Eggs are nutritious; so people shouldn’t be scared of taking them.

“Claims that eggs contribute to high levels of cholesterol in the body have been debunked by thorough scientific research; so people should feel free to enjoy their eggs because they contain good quality protein, they have all the essential amino acids necessary for humans in the right proportions. They are good for the eyes because they contain some antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin) which can guard against macular degeneration and cataract.

“They keep cholesterol (the bad type) in check, sharpen the memory because they contain choline, a nutrient that promotes brain health,” she said.