You know there’s more to World Heart Day that will be celebrated tomorrow than just boring tips and advice. But the fact that you often hear of a young person, big achiever and otherwise healthy, dropping dead of a heart attack just like that is certainly a cause of concern. At least, I’ve heard of two such cases just last month. News such as this is about the only time we take serious notice of the risk of cardiovascular diseases. If we hear about someone over the age of 50 passing away, we put it down to a heart attack or stroke without even enquiring further.

World Heart Day 2011

Such is the apathy prevalent for the most important part of our body. Hence, some drastic changes are called for. With so many ‘Days’ being ‘observed around the world, it is only fair that the human heart have a day of its own, if not a week! As far as days go, ‘World Heart Day’ is a veteran. It has been around since 2000. It is organized by ‘World Heart Federation’, a 50 year old body that has representation in over a hundred countries. It is observed on 29th September every year. It is recognized by WHO. The mandate is clear – make people aware, make people think and make them take up healthy lifestyle choices. Each year, the World Heart Federation works around a theme. Last year, it was heart health in the work place. This year, the theme is staying heart healthy with the family. The federation aims to urge families to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by making healthy choices in terms of food and exercise and avoiding tobacco consumption.


Activities are held around the world and include the usual fair of walkathons, detection camps and even concerts. If a local body wants to observe this special day, they can get support in terms of campaign material and literature from World Heart Federation.

Why World Heart Day is important?

Most of us are aware of the growing incidence and risk of cardiovascular diseases. It is hard to escape, from ads about insurance to ads about biscuits, everyone is singing from the heart. At close to 2 crore deaths per year, Cardiovascular diseases are amongst the leading causes of death worldwide. A common misconception is that heart disease is a disease of excess and hence a disease of the rich. It could not be further from the truth.

Stress, imbalanced diet and tobacco consumption are seen in rich and poor alike. In fact, the growth in number of smokers is coming from developing countries. Hence, the task that lies in front of World Heart Federation and other such initiatives is monumental. I have grown critical of such ‘days’ and the effect they claim to have on the populace. I am also wary of any body that proclaims itself an NGO. But being cynical is the easy way out. So is continuing gorging on burgers and soft drinks. But if not for this generation, at least the next is getting an early heads-up. In an ideal world, children should not have to worry about grave issues like cardiovascular disease. But with the kind of lifestyle choices now available at the click of a button and the kind of choices we make for our kids, a day committed at emphasizing heart healthy choices does actually make a lot of sense.

What can I do?

After all is said and done, it is you who has to live with your used and abused heart. Most of the sponsors of World Heart Day will happily sell you their products aimed precisely at the illness the event hopes to counteract. So the onus is on you, the unhealthy snacker, as it should be. Here are a few checkboxes to get you started:

  • Reduce and ultimately stop smoking. If you are not yet convinced, read our 8 reasons to quit smoking.
  • Half an hour of exercise on at least 5 days of the week is recommended for everyone including people with diabetes and hypertension. Even if you just spend time on the treadmill, it is okay for starters. Remember, the heart too is a muscle and the only way to exercise it is cardio.
  • Reduce salt and sugar intake. Find out how with this feature.
  • Increase intake of unprocessed food such as fruits, vegetables and nuts as against white bread, cheese and butter.
  • Develop a habit of eating home cooked food on most days by carrying a lunch box. Do this fervently so that kids catch up on it and don’t force you to visit a fast food joint every other day.
  • – Punit Pania