Heart disease behind 34 per cent deaths in Bangladesh

Changing lifestyle is not enough. Air pollution has to be reduced as well in order to decrease heart diseases

One of the top causes of death in the country is the cardiovascular disease that affects the heart and blood vessels. According to statistics, cardiovascular diseases are behind 34 per cent of the total deaths in the country.

Till now, it was being said that an unhealthy diet and inactive lifestyle increase the risk of heart diseases. Now scientists say that air pollution is increasing the trend of these diseases.

Specialists call heart diseases, ‘deadly diseases’. The death risk here is high and it appears all of a sudden. A ‘heart attack’ comes almost without warning and people are confused . Apart from the suddenness, another concern centering heart diseases is that its treatment cost is significantly high.

There has been much discussion about the prevalence, prevention and treatment of heart disease for more than two decades. However, there has been less research in the country on this.

There are no national surveys or research-based statistics on how many people are getting affected by this, how many are dying and how many are at risk.

Researchers and policy makers keep relying on the estimates from concerned international organisations or the World Health Organization.

International platform on communicable diseases NCDportal.com says that cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 34 per cent of the deaths that occur in Bangladesh every year. In terms of numbers, the death toll stands at more than 270 thousand.

In this backdrop, World Heart Day was observed in Bangladesh on Thursday, like all other countries around the world. The slogan for the Heart Day this year is ‘Use Heart for Every Heart’ and it urged everyone to be thoughtful of the heart.

SM Mustafa Zaman, professor at the cardiology department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University told Prothom Alo, "The gist of this year's slogan is that all of us together have to take care of everyone’s heart and be thoughtful of the nature. The heartbeat has to be kept going for the sake of humanity.”

New concern

Bangladesh is now almost self-sufficient in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Talking to cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, it was found that Bangladesh has all the requirements including skilled manpower, modern technology and equipment needed for the treatment of cardiovascular disease in the country, except for only three.

Cardiac transplant has not started in the country yet. Physicians in the country are yet to master the treatment of some congenital heart conditions. Plus, they still lack confidence to treat muscle weakness induced heart diseases.

Although there has been an improvement in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, no progress can be noticed when it comes to prevention.

Urbanisation, changes in the eating habits for instance getting used to eating excessive fatty foods, engaging in less physical activity, not getting required amount of rest, being under too much stress- these increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Till now public health experts have been saying that cardiovascular disease is a 'lifestyle disease'. That means, a lifestyle that isn’t healthy contributes to heart diseases. Now scientists are saying, not only an unhealthy lifestyle, but also air pollution is increasing the rate of cardiovascular diseases.

Information of the World Heart Federation says that air pollution is behind 25 per cent of all cardiovascular disease induced deaths. Air pollution-related heart diseases kill 7 million people worldwide per year.

Air pollution is a major public health concern for Bangladesh. The United States' Health Effects Institute and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation's joint report ‘Air Quality and Health in Cities’, published in last August said that Bangladesh capital Dhaka globally ranks fifth on the list of cities with the most polluted air.

In 2019, air pollution killed 22 thousand people in Dhaka city. On the opposite, the global air pollution report published in 2020 said that 15 per cent of the cardiovascular disease-related deaths in Bangladesh are actually caused by the particulate matter (PM 2.5), present in the air.

Head of the epidemiology and research department at the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Institute professor Sohel Reza Choudhury has been doing a research on the causes, prevention, and treatment of cardiovascular diseases for several years now. While talking to Prothom Alo he said, “It’s not like that there is more pollution in mega cities only.”

“Brick kilns, adjacent to the cities are polluting the air. In villages, women spend time being engulfed in smokes, while cooking. Talking only about bringing changes to the lifestyle won’t do if we wish to reduce the rate of heart diseases. We also have to take initiatives for controlling air pollution,” he added.