We know that deaths occur every day. But have you ever wondered what is the leading cause of death in the world?
Cancer? Diabetes? Stroke? Heart disease? Motor vehicle accident?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading cause of death is ischaemic heart disease - responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths.
Since 2000, the largest increase in deaths has been for this disease, rising by more than 2 million to 8.9 million deaths in 2019. Stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the second and third leading causes of death, responsible for approximately 11% and 6% of total deaths respectively. Lower respiratory infections remained the world’s most deadly communicable disease, ranked as the fourth leading cause of death.
Now that we’ve identified the leading cause of death, how much do you really know about ischaemic heart disease?
It is a condition in which the blood flow (and thus oxygen) is restricted or decreased to the heart muscle. We use the term “ischaemic heart disease” for heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries. When arteries are narrowed, less blood and oxygen reaches the heart muscle. This is also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease. This can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
(Image by Jamie Street)
Now that we’ve got that figured out, let’s discuss some of the most popular misconceptions about your heart’s health.
1. “I’m too young to worry about heart disease.”
How you live now affects your risk for heart diseases later in life. Did you know that plaque can start accumulating in the arteries as early as childhood and adolescence? This later leads to clogged arteries.
Even young and middle-aged people can develop heart problems - especially when obesity and diabetes are becoming more common amongst young people.
Even seemingly healthy young people are at risk. For example, Ashraf Sinclair, a celebrated Malaysian actor, aged 40, recently died of a heart attack just February last year. In another example, a 23-year-old in Kedah suddenly collapsed and died while playing badminton with friends.
2. “I’d know if I had high blood pressure because there would be warning signs.”
High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because you don’t usually know you have it. You may never experience symptoms, so never wait until your body alerts you that there is a problem.
The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to check your numbers with a simple blood pressure test. Early treatment of high blood pressure is crucial because, if left untreated, it can cause heart attack, stroke and kidney damage - all which are the leading causes of deaths in the world.
3. “I don’t need to have my cholesterol checked until I’m middle-aged.”
The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked every 5 years starting at age 20. We personally think it’s a good idea to start having a cholesterol test even earlier if your family has a history of heart disease. Children in these families can have high cholesterol levels, putting them at increased risk for developing heart disease as adults.
You can help yourself and your family by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
(Image by Fitsum Admasu)
Now that you know a little bit more about ischaemic heart disease, we would like to encourage you to proactively lower your risk of ischaemic heart disease by:
- Carefully managing your diabetes
- Maintaining normal blood pressure
- Keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level
- Getting regular physical activity
- Quitting smoking and other tobacco use
- Eating healthily