Cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s number one killer. According to the World Heart Federation, cardiovascular disease kills 17.5 million people each year. This is expected to hit 23 million by 2030. In Africa, the latest projections suggest that by 2030, more people will die from coronary artery disease than from any other cause. This is attributed to increased urbanisation, lack of preparedness and unhealthy lifestyles.
The rate of progression of CVD is both remarkable and alarming. The fact that Kenyans in their 20s and 30s are now experiencing heart attacks means we can no longer ignore the growing risk the disease poses to our future health and well-being.
Heart disease is often thought to be a man’s problem. This is a major misconception because it is the most common cause of death in both women and men, and the gender distribution is almost the same.
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to the body, including major organs such as the brain and kidneys, as well as itself. The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. Any sudden blockage of a major coronary artery results in a heart attack. One of the common causes of blockage is a blood clot. If the blood supply to the heart is not urgently restored, the heart may stop pumping, putting one at the risk of death.
Signs of a heart attack include discomfort in the chest. Often the sensation is painful. The distress may also be felt in the arms, jaws and neck. Sometimes, it feels like ‘gas’ in the upper stomach, sweating and shortness of breath. Anyone suffering from these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention. It is important to be on the look-out for these symptoms.
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