Every day at least one Barbadian suffers a heart attack, while two suffer strokes, according to a leading pharmacist, who described the situation as a crisis.
Speaking yesterday at a lunchtime lecture organized by the National Council on Substance Abuse on the topic Prescription Drugs and You, pharmacist Paul Gibson said the island was on a “bullet train to poor health”.
While not revealing the number of deaths from these conditions, Gibson attributed the situation to Barbadians’ eating habits –consuming foods high in salt and sugar –which lead to hypertension and diabetes, the two main chronic non communicable diseases (NCDs) affecting Barbadians.
He focused his presentation primarily on these two conditions, and mentioned that hypertensive patients often showed no symptoms, although in some cases shortness of breath, headaches and nosebleeds could be alarming signs.
Gibson also said diabetes was becoming a costly problem for the Barbados Government, stressing it affected the kidneys, the immunological system; the veins; eyes, and the skin, as well as causing diabetic neuropathy.
NCDs have been a major concern for health authorities here, with Minister of Health John Boyce telling the opening of the 16th Annual Professor E R Walrond Scientific Symposium at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital auditorium last July that these diseases accounted for more than 51 per cent of deaths here, “including sudden deaths” – a reference to a spate of sudden deaths – some of them publicly – among people of varying age groups.
“The Ministry of Health encourages Barbadians to recognize that excessive salt and sugar contributes to the development of non communicable diseases and we want to encourage them to adopt healthy lifestyles,” Boyce said at the time.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Programme Coordinator of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Godfrey Xuereb had even more worrying statistics when he addressed the opening of the Week of Excellence Seminar on Developing a National Policy on Wellness early last year.
Dr Xuereb said at the time the Barbadian diet had become increasing unhealthy over the past 20 years because of the addition of trans fat and the high sugar content.
“A diet that has an excessive amount of sugars and fats; a diet that makes the Barbadian population one of the most obese in the world; a diet that is killing us, that is leading to suffering through the disabilities of NCDs; a diet that has moved from foods that are unprocessed and freshly made to one that has a high percentage of processed foods that contain trans fats and refined sugars – two components that are closely linked with NCDs,” he stressed.
The PAHO official said then 84 per cent of total deaths in Barbados were attributed to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer. He also referred to World Health Organization figures which revealed that Barbadians had a 14 per cent probability of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 years from one of these diseases.