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Alarming projections of heart attacks in Africa by 2030

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/Heart%20attacks%202.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/> </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">As the World marks this year&#39;s heart day with the theme &#39;small changes can make a powerful difference&#39;, it calls on individuals, communities and organizations to share how they power their hearts to inspire millions of people around the world to be heart healthy.
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, is the world&#39;s number one killer. Each year, it&#39;s responsible for 17.5 million deaths and by 2030 this is expected to rise to 23 million. In Africa, the latest projections suggest that by 2030 more people will die from coronary artery disease than from any other cause of death. The rate of progression in this condition is both remarkable and alarming. The fact that Kenyans in their twenties and thirties are now experiencing heart attacks means we can no longer afford to ignore this growing risk to our future health and well-being.
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to the body including major organs like the brain and kidneys and also to itself. The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. Any sudden blockage of a major coronary artery results to a heart attack. One of the common causes of blockage is a blood clot. If the blood supply to the heart is not urgently restored, the heart may stop pumping putting one at risk of death.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Signs of suffering from a heart attack include discomfort in the chest, often the sensation is painful. The distress may also be felt in the arms, in the jaws and in the neck. Sometimes, it feels like &#39;gas&#39; in the upper stomach, sweating and shortness of breath. Anyone suffering from these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">While at home, the first thing to do is to call an ambulance and for first aid, administer an aspirin tablet. The aspirin reduces the clumping of the blood clot within thirty minutes. Unfortunately, aspirin is not usually a sufficient remedy. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Upon arrival to a hospital, doctors can use one of two methods to unblock the artery. The most accessible process in Kenya involves using clot-breaking drugs (thrombolysis) to unblock the artery. However, many centers in Kenya do not stock this medicine. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The second method is the &quot;gold standard&quot; of care which involves specialists using special X-ray equipment to find the clot. If the vessel is blocked, they will physically suck the clot out and may also open the narrowed artery using a balloon, or a stent device. This procedure is called primary angioplasty and takes around thirty minutes using only a small catheter inserted in the leg or wrist. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The main challenge in Kenya is patients suffering from a heart attack do not receive timely treatment. The gap in care comes from poor knowledge of the seriousness of the symptoms and of the condition, poor accessibility of acute medical services for the majority of the population and financial barriers. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">As a result, initiatives like The Heart Attack Concern Kenya (HACK), are moving to address these challenges with a protocol of &quot;systems of care&quot; for efficient management of heart attacks and integrated networks of facilities. The emphasis is to work with the government, ambulance and medical societies to increase access to timely life-saving treatments. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">HACK in partnership with major hospitals is working on educating the public and professionals alike, on evaluating the systems of care available at county level, engaging newly developed ambulance and emergency services, and incorporating insurance schemes including NHIF to improve access for vulnerable populations. HACK works in partnership with ambulance teams, major hospitals including Aga Khan University Hospital and with heart attack teams.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>By </em><em>Dr Mohamed Jeilan, C</em><em>ardiologist and Director, Cardiac Programme at</em><em> Aga Khan University Hospital </em><em></em></span></p>

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