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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Minimising Cardiovascular Complications

300312F1.-Human-Heart-Anato.jpg - 300312F1.-Human-Heart-Anato.jpg
The Heart
Mary Ekah writes on why cardiovascular diseases are quite rampant these days among the old and young members of the population in most developing countries
The human heart has been described as the most important organ of the body as it supplies blood to other parts to sustain their existence. Due to this important responsibility, the heart cannot stop working for a second and if it stops pumping blood to the rest of the organs, the result is instant death.

But, like the liver, kidney, lungs and others, human heart can also be diseased, according to experts.
A consultant cardiologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Akinsanya Olusegun-Joseph, in an interview with THISDAY, said issues relating to the heart and blood vessels are very important. He also mentioned healthy lifestyle, diet and beverages that can be beneficial to human heart.
Olusegun-Joseph described cardiology as basically the study of the heart and blood circulation and diseases ranging from cardiac to blood vessels, which he summed up as cardiovascular.  
“When we speak about the human heart, it links up with every other organ of the body as the one that supplies blood to other organs and it is very important to be aware that once the heart is diseased, definitely the person cannot function optimally,” he stated.
According to him other organs are also very important but one unique thing about the heart is that, once it stops beating, it means that the person is signing out of the planet earth.
“We need to be aware of cardiovascular health, which means our heart and blood vessels are optimally cared for, such that they can in turn work optimally, so that the quality of life can be quite high.”
Talking about some of the diseases and complications that can afflict the heart, Olusegun- Joseph described hypertension as the most important.
“It is a major illness when we talk about heart disease, it is a real factor for a number of heart ailments. In this part of the world, hypertension is a real cause of heart disease, it is a real cause of stroke, a real cause of heart failure in our own scenario, heart attack and kidney failure,” he said.
He shed further light: “It also affects the eye and can lead to blindness, because the vessels in the eye can have so much pressure that can make them develop some changes that can make them rupture causing, bleeding into the eyes.”
The expert noted that something is key, that is, when we talk about hypertension, apart from the fact that somebody could be genetically pre-disposed, there is also the fact that lifestyle of some people can also encourage development of hypertension which he noted developing countries are beginning to have in an increasing basis. He spoke about increasing salt intake, noting that the situation is not helped by the fact that fast food joints are springing up all over the place. Salt in his view, is the cause of factors that can affect the heart negatively.
He defined hypertension as sustained elevated blood pressure, saying, momentarily, a person could experience elevated blood pressure, it is a dynamic thing, when blood pressure goes up, it should not be sustained. “If a patient comes to the hospital today and we measure his\her blood pressure and it reads 140\90, or 150\90 or 150\100, if he comes back the following day or third day and it is still high, we are not going to be in a hurry to discard such a person because the person has sustained elevated blood pressure,” he noted.
According to him, the cut off is blood pressure equal to or more than 140\90. He attributed heart disease to poor physical exercise, obesity, smoking, personality type and diabetes.

While Olusegun-Joseph enumerated causes of heart disease for the adults, he also said children, young adults and adolescents have their fair share of the deadly ailment. According to him, Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is the leading acquired heart problem among the young population in developing countries.
“It is a chronic condition, which causes young people to develop heart failure and many eventually die from the disease or require expensive heart surgery which is often unaffordable or unavailable. It is caused by Rheumatic fever (RF), which can be prevented and controlled. Its global burden falls disproportionately on children and young adults living in low income countries and is responsible for about 233, 000 annual deaths,” he added.

He attributed the cause to overcrowding, poor housing conditions, under-nutrition and lack of access to health care which all play a role in the persistence of the disease in developing countries. According to him, RHD makes pregnancy unsafe and kills or debilitate young people in their most reproductive years.
Ironically, Olusegun-Joseph expresses concern that most people still haven't taped the health benefits of beverages like coffee, which he said recent studies have confirmed its health benefits to the heart. For instance, he said a 2009 prospective study in Japan following nearly 77, 000 individuals aged between 40-79 found that coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, as moderate coffee consumption had been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart failure. Besides, scientific studies have found that regular coffee consumption lowers the risk of type-2 diabetes by up to 67 per cent. This, according to him, appears to result from reduced levels of blood glucose, increased insulin sensitivity and decreased storage of both fat and carbohydrate.
Coffee, he noted, has natural bio-active compound with beneficial properties such as: antioxidants, fiber, micronutrients and polyphenols (chlorogenic acid, flavonoids, melanoidins). The antioxidant effect of coffee is becoming increasingly known around the world. However, protective mechanism of coffee against a host of diseases may involve a lot more than anti-oxidation. Coffee also exerts direct biological actions on the body, which may be protective against various diseases.

Drinking coffee had been found to actively raise blood pressure briefly, right after consumption, linked to the effect of caffeine. However, scientific studies show that coffee's compounds lower blood pressure over the long term, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is believed to be a result of beneficial action of chlorogenic acid on the arteries.
According to him, a meta-analysis of the available prospective studies from 1966 to 2011 show that moderate coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of stroke, noting that in the pooled analysis, habitual moderate coffee consumption was associated with decreased risk of stroke. He said coffee enhances both mental and physical performances and lowers the risk of colon cancer, hepatic diseases, alzheimer's disease, parkinson's disease and inflammation.

Olusegun-Joseph explained that coffee is a beverage which can be part of a healthy diet and a major source of dietary antioxidants which science proved that moderate coffee consumption can be beneficial to health, stressing that benefits of drinking coffee outweighs the perceived effects attributable to the caffeine content of the beverage.
He advises that individuals who are sensitive to the stimulating effects of caffeine have the option of drinking decaffeinated coffee to enjoy the good moments and health benefits of coffee.

“In the past, the health benefits of coffee had not been well understood, as it was often lumped with other stimulants like nicotine, hard drugs, but coffee lowers risk of liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, gall bladder disease, as recent articles point to the beverage as one of the good, healthy beverage choices” and advises that people should form the habit of constantly drinking coffee for the good of their health.

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