The leading causes of death in the country now are heart diseases and stroke, the Ag. Director of the National Cardiothoracic Centre (NCTC), Professor Mark Mawutor Tettey, has disclosed.
Quoting a research conducted by a trainee of the centre, Mr Tettey said high cholesterol (fat) in the blood, known as dyslipedemia, stood out as the worst cause of heart attacks.
Other pervasive risk factors are hypertension, diabetes, obesity and smoking.
Worldwide, Prof Tettey said, it was estimated that 18.6 million people died from heart diseases and stroke, which were also the leading causes of death in the world.
The cardiologist therefore stressed the need for people to take good care of their heart by eating healthily, exercising and avoiding stress in order to reduce the risk of the two conditions.
World Heart Day
He said this at the launch of the World Heart Day in Accra yesterday.
September 29 each year is marked as the World Heart Day to spread awareness of heart diseases and stroke prevention.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Use heart, Know heart.”
Activities planned for the day by the centre include a free health screening and a talk on the importance of the heart.
“Before using your heart for others, one must know that you yourself are fit and stress-free enough.
We can use our hearts for ourselves by taking good care of them.
“Eating healthy, exercising daily and kicking out the tensions and the stress of life are helpful for a healthy heart,” he said.
Describing the heart as the most important organ in the body, Prof. Tettey, who is also a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon and head of the Department of Surgery at the University of Ghana Medical School, said the heart was like the pillar holding one’s life and that when it crushed, one’s life went with it.
“Before anybody is declared dead, the heart must be examined and must be found to have ceased beating.
No matter how you appear to look after sickness or accident, if your heart is still beating, you can never be declared dead.
Our state in this world, whether dead or alive, is determined by our heart.
You have life in you because your heart is working,” he explained.
He said despite the importance of the heart, unfortunately, management of heart diseases in the country was too expensive for most Ghanaians to afford.
Backing that fact with figures, he said for a diagnosis of a heart disease and treatment, one needed to cough out not less than GH¢40,000, while a heart surgery cost not less than GH¢80,000.
“How many of us can afford this?
There should be a way around this so that Ghanaians who need these services will not be denied access because of poverty.
Heart diseases do not respect your status in life,” he said.
Worst of all, Prof. Tettey lamented that the NCTC had outgrown its limited space to ensure efficient practice, “with congestion everywhere.”
He said it was for this reason that the management of the centre had now decided to build a National Heart Institute which would house the latest facilities and equipment for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care of any heart disease and research.
In line with that, he announced the establishment of the National Heart Foundation by the management of the centre, which would, among others, mobilise funds to ensure the construction of the institute and in the long term help make heart surgery and other expensive procedures involved in the management of heart diseases free of charge in the country.
“If we can get at least 2 million workers in Ghana who are willing to sacrifice a bottle of coke, that’s about GH¢5 a month, I can assure the country that we can treat heart diseases free of charge.
“All hospitals that will be engaged in offering advanced heart treatment in the country will be linked to this fund,” he explained.
He therefore appealed to well-meaning Ghanaians and companies to make a commitment to this foundation which, he said, was more reliable and could serve the entire country.
Touching on the theme, a Cardiologist and Head of Cardiology at the centre, Dr Abdul-Samed Tanko, revealed that the ways to know the heart included knowing one’s blood pressure, BMI, sugar and fat levels.
“Some people don’t even know they are walking with bad cholesterol in their system and lots of people come from families with these diseases that lead to stroke which they are not aware of.
“The only awareness is when they get stroke. People should do regular checks to know their cholesterol, sugar and other levels,” he admonished.