MANILA — More young Filipinos are developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD), according to the Department of Health, citing risk factors that include smoking, alcohol consumption, poor eating habits, and a sedentary lifestyle.
"We are seeing younger and younger people being afflicted with cardiovascular diseases," DOH Office-In-Charge Maria Rosario Vegeire said.
Vegeire said surveys show that 36 percent of Filipinos 20 years old and above are obese and 20 percent are smokers.
Among those between 20 to 59 years old, 50 to 53 percent are binge drinkers and 40 percent are physically inactive.
Cardiovascular diseases, or diseases of the heart and blood vessels, remain to be the leading cause of mortality in the Philippines, accounting for a third of deaths, according to the DOH.
CVDs are part of the larger group of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which account for 72 percent of deaths in the country in 2021.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, several health services addressing non-communicable diseases in the Philippines were disrupted.
This was also seen in 75 percent of countries, according to World Health Organization Philippines Officer-in-Charge Dr. Graham Harrison.
"Also due to the pandemic, exposure to NCD risk factors changed. Public health measures such as lockdowns often led to least physical activity, and economic insecurity, leaving many people could not afford to eat a healthy diet," he added.
The WHO said a strong national commitment to drive policies aimed at preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases is crucial.
"We reaffirm our commitment to the Philippine government, including the Department of Health, in supporting bolder actions to help fulfill the commitment to the sustainable development goals, to the reduction of NCDs, cardiovascular disease premature deaths," Harrison said.
"It is time for greater action on cardiovascular diseases starting with integrating hypertension and diabetes into essential universal healthcare packages," Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, director for WHO's non-communicable diseases, added.
The Philippine government aims to reduce premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases by 25 percent in 2025.
Vergeire cited cheaper medicines and coverage for all Filipinos in the universal healthcare program as part of its efforts to achieve this goal.
The DOH also committed to strengthen the healthcare system and primary care services, which are seen to improve efforts on early detection, intervention, and management.
It seeks to expand its healthy hearts program, which aims to reduce premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases by improving hypertension management and control and creating an enabling environment for reduced sodium consumption.
Vergeire stressed that multi-sectoral collaborations in addressing cardiovascular diseases are also important.
The DOH-Center for Health Development (CHD) Western Visayas, together with WHO Philippines and RTSL, will also be relaunching patient support groups called Diabetes and Hypertension Clubs on September 29, after becoming inactive due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We at the Department of Health Philippines remain steadfast in our mission to ensure accessibility and sustained continuity of heart health services on to the new normal, strengthening our healthcare systems to facilitate a coordinated and timely delivery of services across the different life stages and across continuum of care through primary health care, with linkages at all levels of care," Vergeire said.