Karachi: The First Cardiovascular Conference ‘Pulse 2020’ was recently held at Aga Khan University (AKU). The conference was held in collaboration between AKU’s section of cardiology and department of medicine, the Association of Pakistani-descent Cardiologists of North America, the Pakistan Hypertension League and the Pakistan Aspirin Foundation. The event was attended cardiologists, postgraduate students, nurses, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Renowned speakers and health expert were invited in the event including Dr Saira Bukhari, Assistant Professor of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Dr Romaina Iqbal, Associate Professor and Section Head, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Dr Faiez Zannad, Cardiologist and Clinical Pharmacologist, Université de Lorraine, France, Dr Jospeh Kisslo, Professor of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center and Eric Velazquez, Professor of Medicine, Yale University.
The speakers in the conference noted that Dietary practices were a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in Pakistan because health practitioners had difficulty translating international recommendations according to local diet. In the absence of any national data on dietary consumption, health practitioners were unaware of what people were consuming. There was a need for an operational policy and an action plan to promote healthy eating and active lifestyle,
Cardiovascular diseases were the number one cause of death in Pakistan, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, and the country had committed to reducing the burden of such diseases by a third by 2030 under goal 3 of the sustainable development goals. Experts at the three-day conference stressed that the epidemic posed many challenges in the country due to the high cost of diagnosis and treatment and lack of prevention knowledge among patients.
“Health is a partnership between a patient and his/her doctor, so empowerment has to happen from both ends,” said Dr Saira Bukhari. “Right choices in dietary practices need to be picked by patients and advised by health professionals.”
There had been well-designed studies in the last few years which had found that diets which were inclined towards one set of nutrients as opposed to others, didn’t work and actually did more harm than good. “Such dietary practices are in contradiction to how the human body functions. It is all about having a diet of moderation,” said Dr Romaina Iqbal.
Dr Iqbal recommended eating a balanced diet composed of complex carbohydrates, a variety of nutrients along with 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise for adults of all ages. Speakers noted that numerous dietary plans caught media’s attention and people adopt them.
Experts stressed that health practitioners needed to introduce the language of prevention with patients. Knowledge of symptoms of cardiovascular diseases such as chest pain, shortage of breath, unusual heart beat and loss of consciousness were some of the indicators that patients should be informed about. Dr Bukhari said that ideas promoting stereotypical notions of age and health such as how cholesterol and blood pressure numbers should be at a particular age should be discouraged. Patients needed to be enabled to make informed choices of their health because every delayed intervention increases the chance of heart attacks and even stroke, she added.
Keynote speaker Dr Faiez Zannad said global progress in treating heart failure had been spectacular in the last 25 years with mortality declining three fold in dedicated clinical trials. He said that evidence from global clinical trials showed income inequality as a factor determining clinical outcomes in heart failure. “It is desirable that patients and investigators from Pakistan get involved in global trials and join the efforts of knowledge production,” he said.