Angelo Palmones, PHA vice president for external affairs, presents a lecture about campus journalism in connection with the mitigation of cardiovascular diseases. Photo by Kerwin Patrick M. Mercadal

HEART disease topped the list of the leading causes of death among Filipinos in the last three years while some 46 million young Filipinos may be prone to cardiovascular diseases if they don’t make crucial lifestyle changes to boost their health, a study conducted by the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) and the Department of Health (DOH) said.

According to Dr. Eugene B. Reyes, chair of the PHA research committee, cardiovascular diseases refer to a class of illnesses which involve the heart, blood vessels, arteries, and veins.

Commonly identified risk factors that increase the possibilities of acquiring the disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history, over-55 age, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and stress.

The youth sector is the most at risk of developing heart ailments because of exposure to at least one risk factor and bad lifestyle habits, Reyes said during the PHA’s Assembly for Advocacy at the Bayanihan Hall of United Laboratories Inc. in Mandaluyong City last September 19.

“The proportion of young adults with at least one risk factor to develop a heart disease at ages 20 to 29 years old is as high as 83.3 percent,” he said. “Approximately 56, 000 Filipinos die each year of heart disease and an additional of 42,000 people die of stroke.”

Based on the PHA’s research data, the country’s population is currently pegged at approximately 88 million and next year it will baloon to 92.6 million with a two-percent population growth rate. The median age of the population is 21 years old.

Smoking is the most prevalent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases in the Philippines for both the young and adult population, which constitute 24.8 percent and 34.8 percent, respectively, Reyes said.

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Filipinas

The World Health Organization (WHO) also acknowledged high cholesterol as a main risk factor for causing one-third of all cardiovascular diseases worldwide.

Fatal heartbreaker

A 2007 WHO report estimated that 17.5 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2005, representing 30 percent of all global deaths. Some 7.6 million succumbed to heart attack while 5.6 million died of stroke.

The study further confirmed that 80 percent of heart-related deaths occur in countries with low and middle incomes like the Philippines.

The most common types of cardiovascular diseases include atherosclerosis, stroke, rheumatic heart disease, and hypertension, WHO revealed.

Atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease is a heart ailment wherein plaques, which are mostly made up of cholesterol, fats, and calcium, build up in arteries and cause reduction of oxygen supply to the heart and other parts of the body. This may lead to heart attack, stroke, or death.

On the other hand, rheumatic heart disease is a condition wherein the heart valves are damaged due to inflammations in the cardiac tissue that may be triggered by tonsilitis or sore throats caused by bacteria.

Meanwhile, stroke is due to the interruption of the blood supply to the brain which in turn causes clot blockages, while hypertension involves high pressure in most arteries due to low-density lipoproteins that cause delay or halt the transport of blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

In DOH’s 2004 prevalence report, the Philippines registered the highest death rates in Southeast Asia due to hypertension. It also ranked second to Indonesia in incidence of rheumatic heart diseases, fourth to Singapore in atherosclerosis, and third to Japan in stroke.

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Makabagong teknolohiya tungo sa kaunlaran

Campus press campaign

To promote healthy living and lessen fatalities concerning cardiovascular diseases, the PHA, in collaboration with Campus Media Network and Therapharma Incorporated, a pharmaceutical company, organized the PHA Assembly for Advocacy—a whole-day activity themed “The Youth’s Health, The Nation’s Wealth.”

The event gathered campus journalists from various educational institutions in the country for a series of talks, contests, and workshops. The affair stressed the crucial role the campus press plays in promoting a healthy lifestyle.

According to PHA president Dr. Ma. Belen Carisma, the assembly sought to reach more people, especially the youth, in its campaign for a healthier lifestyle.

“Young campus journalists are able to reach more people through writing. By doing this, we are not only able to reach the youth in our advocacy for cardiovascular disease preventions but also their families,” Carisma told the Varsitarian.

The PHA advocates healthy living by moderation in alcoholic drinks, maintaining a low-salt diet, exercising regularly, and beating the fast-food mania.

Meanwhile, in his talk titled “The role of campus journalists in promoting cardiovascular health,” Dr. Conrado Generoso, editor in chief of the Medical Observer, a monthly medical healthcare information magazine, stressed the different opportunities of a campus journalist to help in the fight against cardiovascular diseases.

“A campus journalist can serve as an effective communicator due to his influence among readers. He can facilitate awareness, understanding, resolution, and positive reaction among them which he can use to promote a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Other speakers were Angelo Palmones, PHA vice president for external affairs, who tackled the role of campus journalism in developing a healthy lifestyle; and Dr. Saturnino Javier, chair of the PHA advocacy committee and former Varsitarian editor in chief, who gave a talk on PHA being at the forefront of the battle against cardiovascular diseases.

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Kagawaran ng Kasaysayan ibinalik

In line with PHA’s aim to reach more people through campus journalism, the “PHA-Alliance with Student Writers for a Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy” was initiated during the assembly. This was composed of student delegates who swore commitment to the association’s advocacy for a healthier lifestyle.

Also launched in the assembly was the PHA Diet Guide, a reference handbook that provides easy-to-understand dietary recommendations.

“It should not just be ‘eat, live, and be merry!’. More aptly, it should be ‘eat healthy, then live long and be merry!’,” Javier said.

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