The Pulse

Of Cardiovascular disease – a leading killer

Ashenafi Zedebub

As research papers indicated, cardiovascular disease became the single largest cause of death in the year 2004 when it was estimated that it had caused some 17 million deaths in our world. Sadly enough, the figure will continue to grow.
Countries of low- and middle- income class are said to be seeing an alarming and accelerating increase in rates of cardiovascular disease. According to a study made in the United States, the said disease causes most deaths in all developing regions, with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa; in this part of the world cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in persons over 45 years of age. As regards the younger ones in Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV, AIDS, malaria and lower respiratory tact infections continue to be the leading cause.

Investigators note that there has been a change in the pattern of diseases over the past 150 years. It is indicated that before the year 1900, infectious diseases and malnutrition were the leading causes of death in almost every part of the globe. If one added to this the high infant and child mortality rates, the mean life expectancy was about 30 years. Heart diseases account for less than 10% of deaths, and these were chiefly related to the disease known as rheumatic fever which is usually the result of heart muscle damage also related to some other infections and malnutrition.

According to researchers, there was a decrease in infectious disease as nutritional knowledge increased, as public health measures improved sanitations and as water cleanliness and immunization became common practices. Thus, life expectancy increased dramatically and, in a number of countries, child and infant mortality rates have declined. It has been noted that during this time cardiovascular diseases accounted for between 10 and 35% of deaths and included rheumatic valvular heart disease, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke.

As Dr. Peter Landless, a board certified nuclear cardiologist in the United States indicated, it is sadly ironic that nutritional practices caused the pattern of diseases to change even further. “In technical terms an epidemiologic transition took place: degenerative and human-made conditions (non-communicable diseases) have come to the fore and cardiovascular diseases now account for between 35 and 65% of deaths, mainly from coronary heart disease and stroke.” Experts note that the increased intakes of saturated fats calorie- dense foods (commonly called “junk foods”) as well as decreased physical activities have been largely the factors responsible for the said change. Such foods have fueled the emergence of high blood pressure. It is also worth mentioning that in many parts of the world physical activity is declining, people are overweight and, thus, are prone to type II diabetes as well as abnormal blood fat levels ( cholesterol). Even children are said to be the one suffering from such diseases.

Africa has also not been left out regarding the tragic occurrence. For instance, it has been currently estimated that 40% of women in South Africa are overweight. Hence, the increase in cardiovascular disease has been noted. Tobacco also plays significant role contributing to the deteriorating health conditions.

Here in our country Ethiopia, people are mostly accustomed to eat saturated fat, processed and processed and spiced butter in addition to raw meat, which is the traditional food.

The intake of alcoholic drinks and the use of tobacco are also worth noting.  In any case, this would also contribute a lot to the increase of cardiovascular disease.  So far, I have not been able to read any research paper concerning this issue. What about you?

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