Monday, October 31, 2016

Brunei - Creating heart-healthy environments

A HEALTHY heart is the foundation for overall health and wellbeing. When our heart is healthy we are able to make the most of the opportunities that life has to offer and to play a full and active part in family, community and working life. Today, to commemorate World Heart Day, let us all take a moment to reflect on how we can all improve our heart health.

Despite significant advances in medical care particularly of acute events such as heart attacks and strokes, in 2014 there were 408 deaths from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in Brunei Darussalam. It continues to remain a leading cause of death in Brunei Darussalam and has been the case over the last five years and more.

This year’s theme is “Creating heart-healthy environments”. This is especially pertinent to the issues facing us today. Creating enabling environments that support health and wellbeing and making healthy choices the default choice is the key to reducing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Through appropriate health-promoting environments, CVDs are largely preventable.

Cardiovascular diseases are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease such as heart attacks and also cerebrovascular disease including strokes.

There are several risk factors that have been associated with cardiovascular diseases. Many of these are modifiable and can be controlled with appropriate diet and physical activity.

A sedentary lifestyle, obesity, tobacco exposure, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes and unhealthy diets are all examples of modifiable risk factors.

Never is it more true than here that prevention is better than cure. Eighty per cent of premature deaths from cardiovascular deaths can be prevented by three simple measures: we need to eat less and eat wisely, we must do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity five times a week, and we need to stop smoking.

The most important measure that you can take for yourself and your family to prevent cardiovascular disease is ensuring that you eat a healthy diet. We must eat less and eat wisely.

• Avoid unnecessary snacking and practice portion control at mealtimes to ensure that we do not overeat.

• Choose foods such as leafy vegetables, fruits, fish and lean meats.

• Avoid sweet and sugary foods such as kuih, desserts, and soft drinks. Foods that are high in starchy carbohydrates such as rice, noodles, and bread should be eaten only in moderation. Eat vegetables to fill yourself up instead.

Along with a healthy diet, we need to exercise regularly.

• Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day. Some examples of activities that would be included would be brisk walking, cycling, and swimming.

• You can download a free fitness app on your smartphone to track your activity levels during the day.

• If you have not been exercising regularly before, speak to your doctor before starting a high intensity exercise programme.

The Ministry of Health, together with other partners, in line with “Creating heart-healthy environments” have been addressing the challenges of unhealthy lifestyles through various frameworks including the Brunei Darussalam Multisectoral Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases 2013 – 2018.

In addressing obesity, our healthcare professionals provide direct care for those individuals who are overweight and obese, and also those suffering from the consequences of obesity such as diabetes.

We give brief interventions, motivational counselling, and nutritional advice to our clients.

We work together with other stakeholders in developing an enabling environment that supports individuals to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

In order to truly make an impact on heart-health in Brunei Darussalam, we will explore and support innovative approaches to tackling obesity that are locally-led.

Over the last few months, we have been working with partners to focus especially on workplace and employee health, and also on the supermarket environment making sure that it is conducive to making healthy choices.

In addition, along with other government agencies, we are also exploring fiscal mechanisms that will reduce the consumption of unhealthy food in the country.

Message by Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain bin Haji Hanafi, Minister of Health on the occasion of World Heart Day 2016

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