Heart disease is increasingly becoming prevalent in the world, and Sri Lanka marks no exception. According to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, over 22.6% of deaths in Sri Lanka are caused by cardiovascular diseases. 
The numbers are increasing at an alarming rate – medical professionals foresee heart failure as an upcoming epidemic in South Asia.  Global healthcare research studies further affirm that South Asians will comprise 25% of the world’s population but will suffer over 50% of the world’s cardiovascular disease related deaths. 
Three main risk factors which increase the chances of mortality from heart disease have been identified: hypertension, high blood cholesterol and tobacco smoking. Furthermore, there are additional risk factors which can determine the likelihood of a person developing a cardiovascular disease. Despite being variables that are beyond anyone’s control, a person’s age and heredity play a significant role in assessing his or her possibility of suffering from heart disease.
Other common risk factors which lead to developing cardiovascular disease include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking tobacco, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits and clinical depression.  Sri Lanka faces a vulnerable situation against the said risk factors as there is a high level of tobacco consumption in the country with over 50-60 people dying every day as a result of smoking; and one in five adults in Sri Lanka are diabetic or prediabetic.
It is evident that heart disease can have dangerous implications. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how to prevent or minimize the consequences of developing a cardiovascular disease. There are several practical lifestyle changes that can contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease.
Investing time and effort to consciously integrate these positive changes to your daily routine can lead to a monumental shift in your overall health and wellbeing – at the same time it can also play a decisive role in preventing the development of heart disease.
- Regular exercise – can reduce blood cholesterol, help maintain blood pressure and strengthen the heart and circulatory system.
- Eating healthy – a balanced diet rich in fibre, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables with a reduced or minimal intake of sugar, fat, salt and processed food.
- Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) – obesity is considered as a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. A healthy BMI should ideally be between 20-25.
- Avoiding smoking tobacco – smoking tobacco is considered to be a major risk factor in developing heart disease.
- Reducing or completely refraining from consuming alcohol – overconsumption of alcohol does not only lead to heart disease but also trigger other complications which imperil an individual’s cardiac and overall health.
Heart disease is a common problem globally. It is important to acknowledge that specific steps such as lifestyle changes can be taken to prevent developing cardiovascular disease and reduce the severity of its complications.
Early detection plays a major role in minimizing complications of heart disease. It can be done through physical exams and blood tests, non-invasive tests (eg: ECG, Echocardiogram, stress test) and invasive tests (eg: Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiography). 
Although heart disease cannot be cured completely, its symptoms can be mitigated. In addition to embracing a healthier lifestyle, heart disease can also be treated with specific medications, surgical and invasive procedures depending on the condition. Diagnosis of heart disease at its early stages can be life changing
If you feel like you are at risk for developing heart disease, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor and conduct a few screening tests. If you have a family history of heart disease, have a conversation with your doctor about how you can navigate through the risks and minimize any foreseen complications.
We are getting over a global pandemic and the need to take precautions to prioritize your health and wellbeing has never been so apparent. Needn’t wait further, talk to your doctor – in a post COVID19 world, all we aspire to is to have healthier, longer, better lives.