Heart Disease Prevalence in Trinidad and Tobago
According to the World Health Organization, in 2014 coronary artery disease was responsible for 18% of total deaths in Trinidad and Tobago. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. High blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease is rampant in Trinidad. More women in Trinidad have high blood pressure. Heart disease prevalence was higher in Indo-Trinidadians.
Caribbean countries with fewer resources have higher incidences of heart disease. The Caribbean has the highest rate of chronic non-communicable diseases. The death rate for people in Trinidad diagnosed with diabetes is 10 times higher than it is in America.Worldwide, over 30% of the adult population has high blood pressure, however, 1 in 3 persons are not aware that they have the disease. Uncontrolled hypertension is the main cause of heart attacks and stroke and it can also lead to blindness, and kidney failure among other health problems. In Trinidad and Tobago, heart disease is the #1 cause of death and taken together heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and stroke account for over 60% of all deaths annually. According to the results of the Chronic Risk Factor Survey (MOH, 2011), the prevalence of high blood pressure in Trinidad and Tobago is high, with approximately twenty-six percent of the population (29.8% males and 23.1% females), or 1 in 4 persons, living with high blood pressure.
Risk factors for heart disease in countries like Trinidad are:
- Excess alcohol
- Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- Dietary patterns
- Loneliness and isolation
These are all risk factors that can be modified. However, there was a study done of Afro- Caribbean people that showed a genetic burden for coronary artery disease. In other words, some of the heart diseases are hereditary. However, just because someone has a genetic gene to a certain disease does not mean that the gene has to be expressed. In Trinidad, East Indians are also thought to be at higher risk of coronary artery disease because of a “migrant gene”.
People in Trinidad Who at Risk
- Women who are over the age of 50 and have already passed menopause
- Women who have had a hysterectomy
- A family history of Heart disease
- People with a blood pressure over 140/90
- People who smoke or people who live among smokers
- Cholesterol over 240
- People who exercise less than 3 times a week
- People who are over 25 pounds overweight
- People with uncontrolled diabetes
- People who have had a stroke
- People who eat a diet high in carbohydrates such as rice and plantains
What Can People do in Trinidad and Tobago to Prevent Heart Disease
- Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease. There are many resources available to help someone stop smoking. There are nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and counseling. The Ministry of Health of Trinidad has a program for smoking cessation. Here is a program to sign up for smoking cessation.
- Exercise is essential. Research has shown that it only takes 30 minutes a day to get the full benefits of exercise. The heart is a muscle, and it responds very well to exercise. Only 30 minutes a day of brisk walking will benefit the heart.
- Maintaining adequate weight will help prevent heart disease and diabetes. Obesity is a risk factor for high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing just 5% of your weight can help the blood pressure. It is best to eat a diet that is low in sugar and processed food.
- There is nothing that people can do about genetics. However, just because you have inherited a gene, does not mean it has to be expressed.
Heart Healthy Foods
When it comes to your heart, what you eat matters. Follow these tips for heart-healthy eating:
- Eat less saturated and trans fat. Stay away from fatty meats, fried foods, cakes, and cookies.
- Cut down on sodium (salt). Look for the low-sodium or “no salt added” types of canned soups, vegetables, snack foods, and lunch meats.
- Get more fiber. Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to add fiber to your diet.
- Eat less rice, plantains, bread, and potatoes
Take this list with you the next time you go food shopping.
Vegetables and Fruits
Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. Buy vegetables and fruits that are in season, frozen, or canned.
- Fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, and broccoli
- Leafy greens for salads, like spinach and kale
- Canned vegetables low in sodium (salt)
- Frozen vegetables without added butter or sauces
- Fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and peaches
- Canned fruit in 100% juice, not syrup
- Frozen or dried fruit (unsweetened)
Look for fat-free or low-fat milk products. Or choose soymilk with added calcium.
- Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
- Fat-free or low-fat yogurt (choose options with less added sugar)
- Cheese (3 grams of fat or less per serving)
- Fat-free or low-fat soymilk with calcium
Meat, Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
Choose lean cuts of meat and other foods with protein.
- Seafood, including fish and shellfish
- Chicken and turkey breast without skin
- Pork: leg, shoulder, tenderloin
- Beef: round, sirloin, tenderloin, extra lean ground beef (at least 93% lean)
- Beans, lentils, and peas
- Eggs and egg substitutes
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
Fats and Oils
- Olive Oil
- Pure butter or ghee
- Coconut oil
Magnesium and Its Role in Heart Disease
According to the World Health Organization, more than half of the worldwide population is deficient in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is a major cause of heart disease and diabetes.
Trinidad and Tobago have a high prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. High blood pressure showed gender specificity in women. Prevalence was highest in Indo-Trinidadians, increased with age, and primary education alone was a risk factor. Interventions to arrest the high prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases to promote wellness are needed in Trinidad and Tobago.