Heart disease doesn’t come alone. It’s often accompanied by high cholesterol, obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle.Article
28. 09. 2020
Heart disease has for a long time been the leading cause of death world-wide. In the Czech Republic in 2018, heart disease was the cause of death for 40 thousand people, an astonishing 32% of all deaths. Genetics does play a definite role; however a poor quality of life is more to blame. Every year on the 29th of September is World Heart Day, where we remind ourselves of the issues of heart disease and the importance of prevention.
The most common heart disease is heart failure and ischaemic heart attack, otherwise known as myocardial infarction. Heart failure occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should, and therefore cannot supply enough oxygen to the body parts that require it. It affects more than 200,000 people each year in the Czech Republic alone, and the symptoms are often very inconspicuous: shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the legs and ankles, rapid weight gain or loss of appetite. “Heart failure deceptive in it’s slow onset. Patients often attribute their symptoms to other disease and many simply consider them common signs of ageing. Therefore, it’s common for them to only come to the doctor when the heart’s performance drops to half of its normal function,” says Dr. Pavel Poláček, Canadian Medical’s cardiologist.
It’s not just about the heart
Diseases of the heart are to some extent determined by our genetics; however the most decisive factor is one’s lifestyle. Lack of exercise, poor diet, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and above all smoking- and unfortunately, in the Czech Republic, we excel in all of these areas that have such negative impacts on our hearts. According to the Czech Statistical Office, obesity affects one in every five Czechs and 47% of men and 33% of women are overweight. 40% of adults suffer from high blood pressure and a shocking 70% of Czechs have elevated cholesterol levels that cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). We don’t do very well when it comes to engaging in healthy lifestyle habits- 40% of Czechs do not engage in regular sports or other physical activities.
There’s no better solution than prevention
The statistics are pretty frightful. At the same time, we are looking at factors that each and every one of us can influence for the better by improving our lifestyle and reducing the risk factors. Eating healthier, getting more physical activity (even as simple as walking more) and not forgetting about our regular GP preventive check-ups. Health insurance companies pay for a preventive examination by a general practitioner once every 2 years. They involve blood cholesterol testing at the age of 18, 30, 40, 50 and 60, and blood sugar testing at the age of 18, 30 and 40 every two years. And from the age of 40 and onwards, an ECG examination should be performed every 4 years. "I also perform ECG examinations during a preventive examination in younger patients with diagnosed hypertension, heart defects or other cardiological diseases," specifies Dr. Marcela Lejsková, adult general practitioner at Canadian Medical clinics. To rule out any causes of secondary hypertension, a regular examination of kidney function is performed once every 4 years from the age of 50.
“The preventive-health check system in the Czech Republic is at a very good standard that allows us to catch numerous underlying health conditions before they become problematic. Unfortunately, many patients don’t make use of these preventive check-ups and only come to see their doctor when the symptoms start showing. Perhaps people aren’t aware that they have access to these services.” Says Dr. Marcela Lejsková, and adds: “During a preventive examination, the first thing that we do with the patient is go into detail about their family history, focused on the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases and disorders of fat metabolism. For doctors its very beneficial to know about the medical history of up to three generations of the patients’ families.”
World Heart Day
Every year, on the 29th of September, World Heart Day is a reminder of the importance of prevention. The day is organised by the World Heart Federation and the WHO, but they are joined by organisations from all over the world that support the cause by setting up events, runs, lectures or exhibitions. This year in connection to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s also an emphasis on the fact that people with heart conditions are much more prone to the serious complications from this virus.