JIS News

Director of the Epidemiology Unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Professor Rainford Wilks has said that cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and hypertension are the leading cause of death among Jamaicans.
Professor Wilks who was speaking at the Heart Foundation of Jamaica’s launch of Heart Month on January 31 said that “deaths from cardiovascular diseases in Jamaica are six times those that occur from HIV/AIDS and more than four times the number of deaths that occur from trauma including violence and accidents.”
A breakdown of the prevalence of risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases in Jamaica, based on the Healthy Lifestyle 2000/01 Survey, shows that some 60 per cent of Jamaican women and 30 per cent of Jamaican men are obese, Professor Wilks said.
The survey also revealed that 40 per cent of the population is inactive or engaged in low physical activity, which predisposes them to develop cardiovascular diseases. Other risk factors include pre-hypertension, hypertension, and diabetes.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Heart Foundation, Dr. Knox Hagley, said that while cardiovascular disease is a major problem in terms of its impact on the lives of individuals, it also costs the society in terms of the number of productive years lost as a result of deaths from the disease.
He further explained that, “when an individual dies at age 50 from a heart attack, if it is a man, he has lost about 22 years of his life and the society has lost the value of that individual in terms of his contribution”.
Commenting on the notion that heart disease and in particular heart attack is not a woman’s problem, the Chairman said that although heart attacks are infrequent in women before menopause, it is the leading cause of death in women following ten years of menopause.
Dr. Hagley also noted that while heart disease is a problem faced by all age groups most heart diseases could be prevented, by improvements in lifestyle. Heart Month is celebrated in February and the theme for this year is “Heart Disease in the Jamaican Community – Much more than Heart Attacks.”
During Heart Month, the Foundation will seek to increase the public’s awareness of the types and dangers of heart disease, as well as steps that may be taken to prevent them.
On Friday, February 9, the Heart Foundation’s screening teams will provide free medical counselling and blood pressure checks at the Life of Jamaica Shopping Centre in Spanish Town; Mega Mart, Portmore; the Boulevard Shopping Centre and Manor Centre in Kingston between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Persons can also get tested for blood cholesterol, blood sugar and haemoglobin at a minimal cost.
Throughout Heart Month, the Foundation will conduct a membership drive which will allow individuals to benefit from substantial discounts on all its services, which include ECG testing, blood pressure and weight checks, blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and haemoglobin tests.