PRINCETON, New Jersey — Health and sustainability go hand-in-hand when it comes to the wellness and success of an individual. To be able to perform the everyday tasks that ensure survival and prosperity, such as working and providing for one’s family, one must be in a reasonable state of health to do so. In turn, if one is working while living in poverty, they will not be able to afford basic health care and services to remain in a state of wellness to succeed. This can lead to serious issues when it comes to common diseases which affect those globally. Here is some information about coronary heart disease in Panama and efforts to combat it.
Facts About Poverty in Panama
As of April 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected much of the socioeconomic landscape of Panama and thus increased its poverty rates. From 2019 to 2020, poverty in Panama went up from 12.1% to 14.9%. One-fifth of people employed in high-growth sectors in Panama are living on $13 per day, and rural areas are disproportionately poor, with a poverty average six times higher than those living in urban areas. This could lead to less availability of health care as well which ultimately leaves many in Panama vulnerable to deadly diseases. One of the most deadly in the nation is coronary heart disease.
About Coronary Heart Disease
To put it simply, heart disease is a term for many conditions that all fit into a spectrum that affects heart functions and can lead to severe health issues in life. Coronary heart disease is a condition that is a type of disease where the coronary arteries cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
The causes of this disease vary on the type of heart disease. To learn about coronary heart disease, The Borgen Project spoke to Laura Levin, a Doctor of Medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. In an interview, she said that “Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process that builds up plaque in our arteries, which can narrow or “clog” the blood vessels and restrict oxygen flow to our organs.”
What is even more concerning is the fact that individuals may already be in the early stages of coronary heart disease without even knowing. Levin said, “When the heart can still adequately function, people may have no symptoms.”
Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of heart disease it is. Concerning heart disease when it affects the heart valves and heart muscle, the most common symptoms are shortness of breath and chest pains. However, other symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, irregular heartbeats and swollen lower extremities.
Heart disease can also lead to more deadly medical complications, some of which are very prevalent in Panama.
About Heart Disease in Panama
Heart disease is an underlying condition at the heart of medical issues in Panama. Additionally, several other heart-related issues that stem from the heart also affect many in Panama. Heart disease is among the top 50 causes of death in Panama. Currently, coronary heart disease carries a 54% death rate in Panama and was as high as 69.7% in 2018 per 100,000 citizens. Other heart disease-related issues such as stroke, hypertension and inflammatory heart all rank within the top 20 causes of death in Panama, in the second, 12th and 20th places respectively.
When it comes to heart disease in Panama, genetics plays a significant factor in how one can develop heart disease. “Some people have genetic predispositions for heart disease or have underlying diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesteremia that can increase our risks of atherosclerosis.”
Other methods of gaining heart disease in Panama have to do with lifestyle and dietary choices. Red meats and processed foods have become staples in Panamanian diets. These two choices of food greatly increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Diets high in salt and fat also increase the risk. Obesity can also be a risk factor when it comes to developing heart disease and in Panama, studies have shown that almost 30% of the population is obese.
How to Combat Heart Disease in Panama
There are several ways in which one could combat heart disease to live a more healthy and more productive life. One could undergo screening regularly and have family history documented to study whether there is a history of genetic traits in the family.
However, one of the most controllable ways to combat heart disease is to make changes to diet and lifestyle by cutting out processed food and incorporating regular exercise into weekly activity. Medications can also help to decrease blood pressure and potentially destroy plaque building up in the coronary arteries.
One of the more recent movements to improve dietary needs in Panama has come from the Women’s Organization of Bonyic. It started as a simple garden in 2004 to aid children with malnutrition issues. Today, it has the funds necessary to build an inn with a community garden filled with various vegetables. This step in providing all-natural sources of food may help to eliminate heart disease in the future.
Coronary heart disease is prevalent in Panama today and health plays hand in hand with poverty because one must be physically able to perform everyday tasks at a reasonable level of health to thrive. However with these solutions, and organizations such as the Women’s Organization in Bonyic. Positive steps are occurring to decrease heart disease and create further generations of healthy and productive members of society.
– Alex Havardansky