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Doctors sound the alarm over surges in deaths due to heart disease, diabetes

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Deaths from heart disease and diabetes have increased due to the pandemic, according to doctors at a recent forum. 

“Pandemic lockdowns and quarantines have seriously impacted the health of many Filipinos by limiting their movement and keeping them from engaging in exercise,” said Dr. Rodney M. Jimenez, Philippine Heart Association (PHA) secretary, in a July 7 media briefing organized by For Your Sweetheart PH, an advocacy campaign that raises awareness about the link between diabetes and heart disease. 

“This was exacerbated by heightened anxiety, as well as the availability of streaming services and social media,” he added.  

Ischemic heart disease was the top cause of death in the Philippines, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed. The number of deaths due to the disease increased to 136,575 in 2021 from 105,281 in 2020. 

Meanwhile, deaths from diabetes mellitus (DM) increased to 48,000 in 2021 from 39,720 in 2020. 

“A lot of Filipinos living with diabetes don’t realize that if they don’t learn to manage their condition properly, it can lead to heart disease. This is especially true for people who have vices, are hypertensive and unmindful of their diet, and lead a sedentary lifestyle,” said Dr. Francis I. Pasaporte, president of Diabetes Philippines.  

Managing either or both conditions, plus whatever other co-morbidities that may arise, will require a change in lifestyle and behavior, he added.  

DIET, EXERCISE, CONSULTATIONA memory device for healthy habits is “5100” said Dr. Jimenez:  

5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day
1 hour of exercise, or 1 minute of every hour doing any kind of movement
0 smoking
0 sugary beverages

“You know, sitting is the new smoking,” he warned. “Other offices have standing desks now to promote movement.”  

Dr. Carolyn Narvacan-Montano, president of the Philippine College of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (PCEDM), recommended that Filipinos go back to seeing their doctors regularly and not just when there’s something wrong.  

“While online consultation remains a good option to get medical attention, hospitals and clinics can once again accept patients with other conditions by putting in place policies and measures that will protect the health and safety of everyone coming in their building against COVID-19,” she said.  

In the meantime, those who are not yet diagnosed but may be prone to high cholesterol levels and blood pressure can use online tools to gauge the level of their health risks.   

The Framingham Assessment Test is an online written exam that computes the risk for developing cardiovascular disease or getting a heart attack within 10 years based on one’s health information. It’s free and open to anyone aged 30 to 74 years old.   

Results can be brought to a doctor for proper interpretation and diagnosis. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

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