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‘No data on local diet patterns worsening heart disease epidemic’

SAMAA | - Posted: Jan 14, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jan 14, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
‘No data on local diet patterns worsening heart disease epidemic’

Photo: AFP

Diet remains a major challenge in tackling heart diseases and diabetes in Pakistan. Health practitioners say it is difficult to apply international dietary guidelines to the local population.

There is no national data on local diet patterns and practitioners are unaware of what people are consuming.

An operational policy and an action plan are needed to promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle, speakers noted during the First Cardiovascular Conference Pulse 2020 held at the Aga Khan University.

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of deaths in Pakistan, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The country has committed to reducing the burden of such diseases by a third under the sustainable development goals by 2030.

Experts at the three-day conference stressed that the heart disease epidemic poses many challenges in the country due to the high cost of diagnosis and treatment, and lack of prevention knowledge among patients.

“Health is a partnership between a patient and their doctor, so empowerment has to happen from both ends,” said Dr Saira Bukhari, an assistant professor of cardiology in AKU’s department of medicine.

The speakers also said diets which are inclined towards one set of nutrients as opposed to others don’t work and do more harm than good.

“Such dietary practices are in contradiction to how the human body functions. It is all about having a diet of moderation,” said Dr Romaina Iqbal, an associate professor and section head for non-communicable diseases, in the department of community health sciences at AKU.

Dr Iqbal recommended eating a balanced diet composed of complex carbohydrates, a variety of nutrients along with 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise for adults of all ages. 

Complex carbohydrates include whole grain foods, fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, and beans. Experts said health practitioners need to introduce the language of prevention to patients.

Knowledge of symptoms of cardiovascular diseases such as chest pain, shortage of breath, unusual heart beat and loss of consciousness are some of the indicators that patients should be informed about.

Dr Bukhari said that ideas promoting stereotypical notions of age and health such as how cholesterol and blood pressure levels should be at a particular age need to be discouraged. 

Dr Faiez Zannad, a cardiologist and clinical pharmacologist at Université de Lorraine in France, said global progress in treating heart failure has been spectacular in the last 25 years with mortality declining three-fold in clinical trials.

He said that evidence from global clinical trials show income inequality is a factor in determining outcomes in heart failure. “It is desirable that patients and investigators from Pakistan get involved in global trials and join the efforts of knowledge production,” Dr Zannad added.

The conference was held in collaboration between AKU’s section of cardiology and department of medicine, the Association of Pakistani-descent Cardiologists of North America, the Pakistan Hypertension League and the Pakistan Aspirin Foundation.

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