Every 48 hours at least three Barbadians suffer heart attacks, which are responsible for almost half of this country’s recorded deaths or nearly a third of national health expenditure.
Minister of Health John Boyce again highlighted the worrying statistics last night as he addressed the opening session of the 31st Caribbean Cardiology Conference at the Hilton hotel, where he also issued a stern warning that the young were not immune to what he deemed to be a national crisis.
“Medical experts have diagnosed that Barbadians as young as 29 are suffering heart attacks,” said Boyce, while pointing out that the country was experiencing congestive heart disease in higher proportions among the younger generation.
The Minister of Health quoted the Barbados National Registry annual report of 2009 to 2013, which states that “hypertension and diabetes are the major intermediate risk factors for coronary artery disease, with over 80 per cent of [cases] being associated with diabetes and hypertension”.
“The data also indicates that there are on average three heart attacks every two days in Barbados,” Boyce added.
He also sought to explain the reason why young Bajans were falling victim to heart disease:
“The number of adolescents becoming obese at an early age is increasing, resulting in exposure to increased risk of coronary artery disease later in life,” the minister of health said, adding that based on an analysis of national information, heart illnesses have become the number one killer of Barbados residents.
“Over the past ten years cardio-vascular disease has been the leading cause of illness and death in Barbados, and accounts for some 30 to 40 per cent of all our deaths,” Boyce said.
Quoting a recent health ministry study which was carried out in association with the Pan American Health Organisation, Boyce said that in both the direct and in-direct costs, “annually, the Government of Barbados, our partners in civil society, and the private sector spend as much as $225 million on prevention, control, management, and treatment of diabetes and hypertension” — that’s nearly a third of the overall national health spending which stood at $732 million in 2014.
Boyce said the majority of cardio-vascular diseases were caused by the practices that people can change, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.
Using information gathered from the 2016 European Guidelines on Cardio-vascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice, he said, “stress as well as the type of jobs that we do may also influence the risk of developing cardio vascular disease, and even though we may not be able to change all the risk factors there is a lot that can be done to promote their reduction”.
For these reasons, the Minister said his ministry, “strongly supports the paradigm shift towards the prevention of diabetes and cardio-vascular disease through the control of risk factors”.