World Heart Day: Creating Healthy Environments

September 29 is World Heart Day and on this occasion the focus is on creating healthy environments, a necessary strategy to reduce the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Miren Morillas, a specialist in cardiology and member of Top Doctors, answers questions about cardiovascular diseases and gives us some advice on how to make healthier habits.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world and in most countries in the Region of the Americas, where they cause 1.6 million deaths a year, 30% of which are premature in people aged 30 to 69 years.

To find out more about this remarkable day, we interviewed Dr. Miren Morillas to explain some cardiological aspects in more detail:

Good morning Dr. Morillas, the first question that arises, and so we enter a little bit in context, what are the most frequent cardiovascular diseases (CVD) suffered by the population?

The most prevalent cardiovascular disease is ischemic heart disease and those derived from arterial hypertension and atrial fibrillation (AF), which often accompanies arterial hypertension. All these causes also lead to the appearance of chronic heart failure, which in the end is very prevalent in the population.

An important point for the prevention of CVD is to know which risk factors are associated with a greater probability of suffering cardiovascular disease, could you tell us which ones we should take into account?

There are two types of cardiovascular risk factors, non-modifiable and modifiable. Non-modifiable cardiovascular risk factors include age and genetics. Aging causes the appearance of cardiovascular pathology. The modifiable cardiovascular risk factors include smoking, which remains in first place, although its prevalence is decreasing in the general population, although it is still at very high levels, especially in young people, where there has been an increase in the incidence of cannabis consumption. Then there is arterial hypertension and diabetes, dyslipidemia, which often go hand in hand. Alongside these are obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It is also known that depressive moods and anxiety influence the onset of cardiovascular disease, since they are associated with less general health care, due to negative behavioral habits, which influence the generation of risk factors.

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Although it is necessary for the correct functioning of our organism, salt consumed in excess is one of the main causes of arterial hypertension. One factor is salt. How can we reduce its consumption and what should we pay attention to?

When there is already established hypertension or heart failure, it is very important to reduce consumption, not to eliminate it, but to reduce it to less than 2.5 g per day. Likewise, this measure is highly recommended for the population in general, but in order to carry it out, we must introduce a series of changes in our eating habits, such as avoiding dressing our meals with a lot of salt and, above all, avoiding processed foods, which is where the salt is often “hidden”, as well as in canned and pickled foods in general. By eliminating foods that we know contain an excess of salt and avoiding processed foods, we can greatly reduce consumption and thus avoid the appearance of future hypertension.

We know that physical exercise is good for our health, but how important is daily physical exercise for improving heart health?

Physical exercise is very important to alleviate sedentary lifestyles. Some people do their daily exercise in a gym, although it is better to exercise in natural spaces. On the other hand, there are others who hardly do any physical exercise in their daily lives. Some small gestures that can be added to the daily routine are getting off the subway one stop earlier, going for a walk or a stroll and using the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercising helps with cardiorespiratory diseases, helps to alleviate obesity and improves mood.

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Finally, I would like you to tell me about the relationship between women and heart health, how does cardiovascular disease affect women?

It is very important to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease, especially among women around the end of the childbearing period, which is when they tend to experience weight gain, associated with a reduction in physical activity. At this middle stage of life, there is an increase in the incidence of cardiovascular disease in women, especially ischemic heart disease, which, contrary to popular belief, often has a higher incidence and prevalence and is more aggressive. In my opinion, we must intensify public awareness of the incidence of cardiovascular disease in women, since the symptoms are not clear at the beginning and often delay seeking medical attention. This is why we must focus attention on the care, diagnosis and treatment of this population group, which can be considered at high risk.