LETTER | Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Malaysians, contributing to 15 percent of the national mortality in 2019.
The theme of this year’s World Heart Day on Sept 29 was “Use Heart to Connect”. This highlights the adoption of digital technology to prevent and control cardiovascular disease.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a lifestyle change and has accelerated digital transformation to improve the dissemination of health information and healthcare access.
Here are some ways to keep our hearts healthy with the adoption of digital technology.
1. Eat healthy
A heart-healthy diet is crucial to prevent and control cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (Dash) diet can lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, besides lowering the risks of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and obesity.
The Dash diet emphasises getting a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and vegetable oils which are good for the heart.
Many mobile diet apps are available to keep track of one’s diet and foods taken.
2. Stay active
Staying active has been more challenging during the Covid-19 pandemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.
Physical activity is made trackable using in-built fitness apps on smartphones or wearables to assess one’s physical activity.
Step counts and burnt calories could be rewarding. More videos on exercise are accessible on the MYHEALTHKKM YouTube channel.
3. Quit smoking
Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A meta-analysis showed that men who smoked one cigarette per day had 1.48 higher risk while those who smoked 20 cigarettes per day had 2.04 higher risk for coronary heart disease as compared to a non-smoker.
When one is ready to quit smoking, do get connected to quit by registering through the Ministry of Health’s JomQuit programme.
4. Aim for a healthy weight
The National Health and Morbidity Survey, 2019 reported that one in two Malaysians were overweight or obese. Obesity and being overweight were found to be associated with cardiovascular disease.
Aim for healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) within the normal range (18.5 to 24.9kg/m2). Lifestyle modification through diet and exercise could help in losing weight.
Using digital weight monitoring and fitness mobile apps to track and monitor one’s weight digitally could help in getting body weight on track.
5. Manage stress
Stress is another risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, as well as relaxation exercises and therapies could help in managing stress.
If stress gets overwhelming, feel free to seek help from the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS), Ministry of Health and Mercy Malaysia volunteers via these hotlines: 03-29359935 / 014-3223392 / 011-63996482 / 011-63994236.
More NGO hotlines for mental health and psychosocial support can be found here.
6. Screen and manage diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia
Diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia are common comorbidities and major risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases. Hence, regular screening is encouraged.
Telehealth is also available in some health clinics to improve accessibility during the Covid-19 pandemic.
If there is abnormal blood glucose, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels, do not hesitate to consult your nearest health clinic listed here.
7. Connect to every heart
For a more sustainable lifestyle change, improve connections in the community to build a heart-friendly society, create a more conducive environment to keep one another on track, and get support for lifestyle modifications via digital networks.
Peer support can keep one another motivated for healthier choices. The whole society can stay united by getting connected to one another, leaving no one behind, and moving towards better health for all.
Love our heart by using our heart to connect to healthier choices. Choose to live a heart-healthy lifestyle today.
DR YOONG LEE YEEN and PROF DR MOY FOONG MING are from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.