Today in Sliema, the Malta Medical Students’ Association (MMSA) is marking World Heart Day, which is on Thursday, by providing a number of free health tests and health advice.
Following last year’s successful commemoration at Baystreet, the MMSA has chosen Bisazza Street, Sliema as the venue to conduct free blood pressure and blood glucose tests and body mass index measurements.
In addition to the tests, there will also be a children’s section encouraging the younger generation to eat healthily and exercise. The medical students will also be encouraging smokers to exchange a cigarette for a piece of fruit from one of the stands and a nutritionist will be on hand to give useful tips on how people can change their lifestyle and eating habits.
World Heart Day will be marked internationally on Thursday, with the World Health Organisation once again joining forces with the World Heart Federation, and this year’s slogan is One World, One Home, One Heart.
Cardiovascular diseases are still the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.3 million lives a year, even though the risk factors for heart disease and stroke are well known. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include raised blood pressure, high cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, an inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, being overweight, obesity and physical inactivity. Eighty per cent of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided simply by controlling the main risk factors.
On the day, the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate is emphasising the importance of taking control of these risk factors. Small changes at individual level can make a big difference in terms of better health. These measures help prevent not just heart disease and stroke but also other chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease, which together cause 60 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
The Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate is encouraging the population to adopt a healthier lifestyle and believes that small changes can make huge differences to the lives of many. The lifestyle of each individual depends on the choices that person makes in their day-to-day lives.
The Directorate promotes a healthier diet that includes eating at least five servings of fruit or vegetables a day, whole grains, lean meat, fish and pulses, and restricting salt, sugar and fat intake.
Physical activity has been deemed as one of the most important investment in a person’s own health. The World Health Organisation recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day for adults and 60 minutes for children.
Data from Malta on smoking shows a slight fall in the number of adults who smoke regularly. This is seen as the result of various factors, including legislative measures, consistent health education on tobacco and the harm it causes and, most of all, a slight shift in our culture where smoking is no longer encouraged. Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke is also dangerous. The risk of heart attack and stroke starts to fall immediately a person stops smoking, and can fall by as much as 50 per cent after a year.
Early identification of other risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels and lipid values, will lead to a reduced risk, which is why people are encouraged to have regular check-ups, as guided by their family doctor.