Barbadians have a critical part to play in reducing NCD burden
The latest report of the Barbados National Registry for Non-Communicable Disease (BNR) once again shows the worrying trend of increasing numbers of heart attacks and strokes in our country.
Between 2010 and 2018, the number of heart attacks increased by 33 per cent, while strokes increased by 15 per cent, occurring in both the younger and older segments of the population.
Strokes, in particular, are leaving many of its sufferers with long-term disability that affects their quality of life. There needs to be a greater sense of urgency from individuals, communities and the Government to tackle what is in its own right a raging epidemic in our nation. While these events can occur in anyone, several factors place us at higher risk of having a stroke or a heart attack and too many Barbadians accumulate these risks daily and are akin to ticking bombs about to explode.
Data from the registry indicates that 86 per cent of heart attack patients and 83 per cent of stroke patients, whose risk factors were listed, were noted to be hypertensive. Additionally, 75 per cent of heart attack patients and 63 per cent of stroke patients, were noted to be diabetic, where this information was available.
The Barbados Health of the Nation Study revealed that 9.2 per cent of Barbadians smoke tobacco and 14.5 per cent engage in periodic heavy episode drinking of alcohol. To reduce our risk, experts recommend that if you smoke – stop! If you drink alcohol, only one glass per day is permissible.
Smoking and alcohol use significantly increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. The evening unwind with more than one glass of wine, or more than one finger of rum and a smoke of tobacco or marijuana, is actually increasing your risk of a cardiovascular event by 25 to 40 per cent. Walking is good for the brain and the heart. Persons who walk for an hour each day can reduce their risk of stroke by 10 per cent over time.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our lives but it also provides us with the opportunity to recognise that big changes are possible. It is estimated that coronavirus will kill between 2 and 3 million people in 2020 while cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and strokes) account for 18 million deaths every year. Our schools have changed hours and adopted COVID-19 protocols en masse, it is time also for us to adopt effective nutrition and physical activity protocols to help our children learn how to live healthier lives. This will have significant impact in their lives and our entire community for generations.
We have an opportunity to improve our food environment and become more locally and regionally self-sufficient. We need to grow our own foods at schools and in communities and ban harmful items like foods with added trans fats. If there’s ever a time for us to make major changes, it is now.
We applaud the Government of Barbados for its commitment to decrease the impact of NCDs, and call for further action in implementing policies that support healthier lifestyles in our schools and communities.
As we acknowledge World Stroke Day, we invite Barbadians to embrace the slogan of this year’s campaign and to do all in their power to not become a statistic – Don’t be the one! Encourage your friends and family members to stop those activities which endanger their health but rather engage in those which improve your length and quality of life.
This article was submitted by the Barbados National Registry For Chronic Non-Communicable Disease The George Alleyne Chronic Research Disease Centre, The UWI Cave Hill Campus in recognition of World Stroke Day, October 29, 2020.