The public is regularly informed about how to maintain good heart health as well as how to prevent heart-related diseases and stroke. In Barbados, as is the case across the world, heart attack is one of the leading causes of death despite significant measures being taken to reduce the numbers affected. Middle aged women and men are particularly susceptible, especially with their increased work loads and responsibilities in the home and in the workplace. Additionally, recent figures reflect a disturbing trend of heart disease in the younger adult age groups as well. Hence, it is important to stress that there is a need for all of us to take greater care of our overall health.
Family history is a strong risk factor and people with chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) are also particularly at risk for heart disease. Doctors, health workers and other officials have long been cautioning Barbadians about the dangers of eating unhealthy foods and leading sedentary lifestyles, while pointing out the numbers that are receiving treatment from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the polyclinics across the island, as well as the significant cost attached to this treatment. At such a rapid rate, Barbados’ scarce financial resources are being seriously challenged to keep up with the cost of treating people with heart disease and other CNCDs.
Over the years, there have been numerous discussions about the negative impact of CNCDs on developing countries in Barbados and the Caribbean and the need for more funding to combat these diseases.
Health officials continue to emphasise the challenge that CNCDs pose in Barbados and the need to find a solution to those who suffer with these diseases.
Considering the seriousness of this situation, the work of the Heart and Stroke Foundation must be recognised, since they continue to educate and agitate for better health practices in Barbados. Many patients attest to the sterling work that they do to expand clients’ knowledge of CNCDs. Their fully equipped ‘Gym With a Difference’ is apparently the only gym certified for cardiac recovery outside the US. Importantly, trained specialists assist with the recovery process after a heart or stroke incident. The foundation also does in depth, conducting courses in Emergency Cardiac Care, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, First Aid, CPR and other life saving courses for certification. The organisation also places necessary focus on group sessions dealing with heart disease and CNCDs, diet, medication, exercise and overall general support.
Attention has also been paid to younger people and their education about these dreaded diseases since childhood obesity is increasing. A few years ago, CEO of the QEH, Dr. Dexter James, highlighted the need for young children to embrace messages concerning greater health and wellness, as well as to become more active.
In promoting this healthy thrust, more restaurants must be urged strongly to include healthier options on their menus. In the US, UK and further afield, healthier options on menus have become commonplace, and are prominently featured in advertising campaigns so that patrons come onboard.
We recognise that healthy options can be expensive for some but Farmers Markets have made a comeback where Barbadians can find ground provisions and fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. The work has begun, but if we are to win the battle against heart disease, healthier lifestyles must be adopted without further delay, to maintain our country’s heart health.