How to save your heart
"Our heart is your health" at is the theme for World Health Day, 1972. Public health measures against infectious diseases are obvious to everybody. Urgent action is now needed against diseases of the heart and blood vessels, which are the main cause of death in so many countries throughout the world.
High blood pressure, vascular lesions of the central nervous system and congenital malformations, for example, are common everywhere. Ischaemic heart disease is associated with affluence, while rheumatic heart disease and heart diseases of infectious origin are more common among less privileged groups. Some causes of heart diseases, such as Chagas' disease, are concentrated in certain parts of the world.
Although the increasing burden of cardiovascular disease of atherosclerotic origin is to some extent associated with the rising age of the population, ischaemic heart disease is becoming more and more frequent in younger subjects.
Enormous progress has been made in science and technology and important social and economic achievements have been accomplished. Yet health indicators warn us that all is not well with our civilization and that its harmonious continuation depends, to an extent which might surprise some, on the solution of major health problems such as the cardiovascular diseases. The prevention of those diseases will require some far-reaching changes in our way of life and in order to make them possible we must be sure that we call upon all the scientific and technical means at our disposal.
Much more than we realize, the health of our hearts is in our own hands. The time has come for community action to control high blood pressure, to prevent rheumatic heart disease, to give proper care to persons with myocardial infarction or cerebral stroke, to treat respiratory diseases that often lead to chronic heart failure, and to diagnose and treat malformations of the circulatory system in children as early as possible.
We need better nutrition and healthier living habits. Much more concentrated research is necessary to clarify the unknowns of atherosclerosis and ischaemic heart disease. Since some predisposing factors are already present in young people, prevention needs to be concentrated on the young adult, and even on the child and adolescent by promoting their optimum development.
We need better care for all stricken by heart disease. In many places there are excellent hospitals with modern equipment and trained personnel; but everywhere there is difficulty in rapidly providing the right care to all those who need it.
This calls for increasing international effort, government support, active participation of health workers and of the public. If all these forces will universally unite, we may soon be able to live a better, a healthier and a longer active life.
I hope that World Health Day 1972 the Day of the Heart will give impetus to world-wide co-operation in the conquest of cardiovascular diseases. Remember: "Your heart is your health."
Dr. M.G. Candau: Director-General of the World Health Organization