The Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) will celebrate Heart Month 2022 throughout February under the theme: “The ‘Weigh’ to a Healthy Heart.”
During Heart Month, the HFJ will be focusing its public education on maintaining good health, particularly healthy nutrition, especially during the pandemic. The focus will also be on the importance of screening in the prevention & early detection of risk factors for heart disease.
Speaking at the official media launch of Heart Month 2022, Minister of Health & Wellness Dr the Hon Christopher Tufton stated that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally and account for 30% of deaths in Jamaicans.
HFJ Public Education Drive on CVD Risk Factors
“There is a high prevalence of CVD risk factors, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and overweight/obesity, in the Jamaican population. These occur at higher rates in women than men,” the Minister said.
The Minister added that tobacco use, excess alcohol, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diets compound CVD risk factors from very early in their lives.
“In line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to reduce by one-third, by 2030, premature deaths from NCDs, Jamaica has given its commitment to take the necessary actions to achieve this goal. This is no easy feat, and we must develop partnerships with non-government organisations and civil society, to educate and promote healthy lifestyles if we are to achieve this,” he added.
Statistical Support of CVD Health Risks
The most recent Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey (2017) shows that 1 in 2 Jamaicans are overweight, while 1 in 3 Jamaicans live with high blood pressure.
Two thousand twenty-one statistics from the HFJ revealed that 74 per cent of persons who used its services were overweight or obese. Fifty-two per cent of those screened had Stage 1 or 2 high blood pressure (which requires medical attention). Sixty-six per cent of persons who knew that they had high blood pressure were uncontrolled, and 30 per cent of those screened who did not report a history of high blood pressure had readings in stage 1 or 2 levels.
“We have to remind people of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, and this can only be achieved through a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet and increased physical activity,” said Dr Suzanne Soares-Wynter, Clinical Nutritionist and Board Member at the HFJ.
“It is important for adults to know their numbers as these are key indicators of any potential risk for cardiovascular health issues. If you can keep your numbers in a healthy range, you can dramatically decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health conditions,” she added.
Threat of Childhood Obesity
Students faced with online classes for more than a year is also of concern. Some children have not been less active than they usually would be, while at the same time, many would have consumed snacks, foods, and drinks high in calories, sugar, and fats.
These behaviours will likely worsen the childhood overweight and obesity crisis that was captured in the 2017 Global School-based Student Health Survey. The survey showed that obesity had increased from 5.3% to 10.3% for boys and increased from 6.7% to 9.9% for girls.
Deborah Chen, Executive Director at the HFJ, highlighted that; “Obesity is a challenge and a concern in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean mainly due to the increased consumption of ultra-processed foods and beverages many of which are high in fat, salt/sodium, and sugars.”
Consumers need to be empowered to make healthy nutritional choices for themselves and their children, hence the HFJ lobby for Front of Package ‘high-in’ black octagonal Labels that are simple and easily understood by the general public. These labels will alert the consumers to high levels of salt, sugar, and fat in products.
Persons who suffer from a non-communicable disease are at greater risk of a poor outcome should they contract COVID-19. The Ministry of Health and Wellness reported that 60 per cent of COVID-19 related deaths had a pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
During the month, we are encouraging everyone to get screened at the HFJ, located at 28 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. Persons can either walk-in or make an appointment at 876-334-4998 or 876-926-4378. The public will also benefit from discounts on screening blood tests.
The Foundation has several activities planned throughout the month across the island, with the help of our radio partners, to engage the public and increase public awareness. Our medical team will be providing screening at various health centres and organisations to increase public access to care.
Heart Month 2022 is sponsored by Massy Distribution Limited, Rainforest Seafood, and the Global Health Advocacy Project.