The most important behavioural risk factors of heart disease and stroke are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. The effects of behavioural risk factors may show up in individuals as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and overweight and obesity. These “intermediate risks factors” can be measured in primary care facilities and indicate an increased risk of developing a heart attack, stroke, heart failure and other complications.

Every year, 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease, according to a new brief released today by the World Health Organization, World Heart Federation and the University of Newcastle Australia ahead of World Heart Day, marked on 29 September. This equates to one in five of all deaths from heart disease, warn the report’s authors, who urge all tobacco users to quit and avoid a heart attack, stressing that smokers are more likely to experience an acute cardiovascular event at a younger age than non-smokers.

The brief also shows that smokeless tobacco is responsible for around 200 000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year. E-cigarettes also raise blood pressure increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a disease in which fatty deposits made up of cholesterol and other cellular materials (collectively called plaque) accumulate inside the coronary arteries on the surface of the heart, leading to narrowing of the arteries. This decreases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, which can trigger a heart attack and may cause serious heart damage or sudden death. This process often evolves slowly over a long period, and many affected individuals only become aware of their condition when they suffer a serious heart attack. The problem is that CHD, like most noncommunicable chronic diseases, is complex and influenced by interrelated personal, social and commercial factors. Unhealthy behaviours, such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, are major examples of risk factors. These, and the resulting intermediary health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes mellitus, increase the risk of developing CHD. CHD, the leading cause of death and disability globally, causes the loss of 9.4 million lives and over 203 million disability.

Tobacco control is a key element for reducing heart disease!