Experts worry about increased heart diseases in young people

By Carol Kasujja

experts attributed the rising numbers of heart diseases to lifestyle habits that include smoking, drinking alcohol, eating junk food and sitting for long hours.

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PIC: Experts advise that people should seek medicatl attention whenever they feel pain or discomfort in the chest for early diagnosis. (Credit: Racheal Nassuuna)


KAMPALA - Cardiologists under their umbrella body Uganda Heart Association have sounded alarm over the increased heart diseases among young people.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to any part of the heart stops, causing damage to the heart muscle.

During their annual meeting held at Protea Hotel, the experts attributed the rising numbers to lifestyle habits that include smoking, drinking alcohol, eating junk food and sitting for long hours.

In a bid to improve the treatment of patients with heart disease, a project called Uganda STEMI (uSTEMI) network has been launched. The network, which will have all cardiologists from hospitals in Uganda and Kenya, aims at shortening the delay from the first medical contact to initiation of the appropriate medication.

Dr Emmy Okello, a consultant working with the Uganda Heart Institute, said the system will align clinical care, technology, insurance and emergency services in order to create an accessible, efficient and affordable quality service system.

"Most of the people who come to the heart institute report late. We advise them to always seek medical attention in case of any chest pain or discomfort because early diagnosis results in early treatment, thus saving life," Okello said.

Though heart diseases are on the rise, Uganda has only one cardiac catheterisation lab) located at Uganda Heart Institute in Mulago, Kampala.

"This cath lab serves a population of 35 million people and is treated by a team of 12 cardiologists. This means that the majority of Ugandans visit hospitals that do not handle heart issues, which may result in wrong diagnosis by non-cardiologists," said Dr Erias Sebatta, a senior cardiologist at the Uganda Heart Institute.

According to a report by the Uganda Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases are second to infectious diseases in causing death in Africa, accounting to 11% of the total deaths.

"In 2012, about 18 million people died from cardiovascular diseases, representing 31% of all global deaths (WHO 2014). Heart attack is the second leading cause of death in Africa preceded by communicable diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The in-hospital mortality following heart attack is as high as 10%," reads the report.

"We still continue to face various challenges such as late presentation to health facilities, inadequate infrastructures such as intensive care units in most of the hospitals, missed diagnosis because of failure to recognise symptoms and inability to interprete ectrocardiogram findings and absence of an efficient emergency medical service," Sebatta said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) target is to lessen non-communicable disease mortality rate by 2025 by reducing the premature deaths due to cardiovascular disease.

The experts called on Ugandans to have a controlled carbohydrate lifestyle, a healthy diet and adopt exercise to prevent risk factors for heart disease.