In the 21st century, many people still lack reliable health knowledge. Searching for answers to questions about healthy or harmful habits is not an easy task in the maze of informational hype. Questions about the sense of taking specific actions for one’s health often remain unanswered – says Dr. Anna Sofikoska, co-author of Heart in Good Style. How do you consciously manage your health.”
According to data collected in the latest NIZP-PZH report “The state of health of the Polish population and its determinants”, the life expectancy of Poles is still shorter than the EU average – the difference is 4.5 years for men and about two years for women . This parameter is strongly influenced by social conditions: men with higher education live longer than those with secondary and lower secondary (and less) education – by 7 and 11 years, respectively. The greatest threat to the lives of Poles are cardiovascular and oncological diseases. Undoubtedly, non-modifiable factors contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but the factors that each of us affects are very important. All experts emphasize the great importance of prevention, but unfortunately its effectiveness still leaves much to be desired.
From knowledge to healthy living
In 2019, cigarette smoking was responsible for 8.9 million deaths worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease report. 6.5 million people died from excessive systolic blood pressure, 5.02 million from abnormal body mass index, and in the case of 7.94 million people, malnutrition contributed to the death. Air pollution was responsible for 6.67 million deaths. These are the factors on which we can have a real impact – Dr. Anna Sofikoska, MD, cardiologist, specialist in internal diseases in the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Warsaw Medical University, multi-author of the publication Heart in Good Style. How to Manage Your health consciously.”
As the expert adds, diseases caused by an improper lifestyle not only contribute to an increase in mortality, but also rob the functional ability of Poles, which is very important in old age, years of living in a good psychophysical condition.
Behavioral risk factors, that is, those associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, are responsible in Poland for a loss of 35.8 percent. They lived in good health (43.0% for men and 27.1% for women). The most important risk factors responsible for the lost years of healthy life are: smoking, high body mass index and abnormal blood pressure – says Dr. Sofikoska.
According to the expert, the main cause of the diseases of civilization is the lack of effective education using understandable communication technologies. It was the desire to bridge this gap that led Dr. Anna Sofikoska to begin work on the publication Heart in Style. How to Consciously Manage Your Health.
– Professionally, I am associated with the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the Medical University of Warsaw. We accept patients who are scheduled to undergo urgent or elective surgery. Heart surgery is usually a turning point in many people’s lives. Patients and their families always ask a lot of questions not only about the procedure itself. Moreover, relatives of patients are very interested in how they can adjust their lifestyle to avoid illness and hospital stay. It turns out that many people are looking for reliable knowledge about risk factors, they want to understand the meaning of prevention, which is why when a loved one is in the hospital, many questions about health arise. Unfortunately, I realize that these questions often remain unanswered. In the realities of Polish healthcare, doctors assume many tasks, including administrative ones. There is no time for long individual discussions with each patient about the many aspects of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. With all this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to create something like an interesting and universal guide with important health information from the perspective of a cardiologist and at the same time an internal medicine specialist, based on solid data and scientific guidelines. communities, but they are written in simple language to facilitate decisions about an individual’s health – says Dr. Anna Soikowska.
What to do and what not to do to change your lifestyle is not enough
The author of “The Heart in Good Way” asserts that publication was preceded by an analysis of available data on deaths and their causes. On its basis, Dr. Anna Sofikoska identified the most serious cardiovascular risk factors and premature death. The information used came from European and American Cardiology Association guidelines, Polish Diabetes Association recommendations, publications from peer-reviewed scientific journals (such as The Lancet) and the Global Burden of Disease report.
Deaths due to heart disease are more frequent in Poland than in the rich countries of the European Union. Standardized death rates from heart disease in working-age men are about 4 times higher, for example, in the Netherlands, although the results of inpatient treatment for heart attacks are very good in Poland, compared with European leaders, says Dr. Anna Słowikowska.
The expert not only gave simple recommendations in the form of what to do and what to avoid, but also on a large scale, although accessible, explained the course of various processes occurring in the human body – and the effect of unhealthy habits.
My publication consists of 40 chapters. They are designed so that everyone can find answers to questions critical to health, and most importantly understand the meaning of the recommendations given in hospitals and clinics. Several illustrations are an added advantage. My intention was for the illustrations to be a funny line of imparted knowledge, but not to diminish the objective quality of the message – adds the expert.
As noted by Dr Anna Słowikowska, much has been said recently about effective management in healthcare, often in the context of the system and individual healthcare entities. In the meantime, says the author of Hearts in Good Style, society must be made aware that living healthy largely depends on everyday choices. Each of us must consciously manage our health.
The patient bears joint responsibility for his health
Referring to the statistics of deaths from heart disease, Dr. Sowikoska draws attention to another problem: despite the excellent results of treatment of the acute phase of heart attacks in Poland, we still cannot deal with primary and secondary prevention. Although the expert values some top-down initiatives, such as the sugar tax or Prevention 40 Plus, in her opinion, it does not adequately take into account the shared responsibility of patients to take care of their health.
Public health does not depend solely on health workers or state policy. No one will stop smoking, no one will be tested, no effort will be made to reduce body weight, do the right amount of exercise or quit unhealthy eating. You must first understand what it means to take pro-health activities in order to carry them out effectively – emphasizes Dr. Anna Sofikoska.
He also emphasizes, according to ESC data, Poland has been a country with high cardiovascular risks for two decades.
– This is largely due to the lack of reliable knowledge about risk factors. Few people realize that just knowing these factors is of great value. For more than a hundred years, research on lipid disorders has continued, thanks to which we know that they need to be treated with diet and sometimes medication. Many people have a problem with reluctance to take advantage of these gains. During a 20 minute consultation, even the best doctor is unable to explain all aspects of CHD, COPD and dyslipidemia or provide the patient with basic data from reports and records. An appropriate publication written in accessible language, but based on scholarly sources, and not childishizing the message, can be a valuable tool. Simply listing risk factors without making clear the sense of taking specific actions is ineffective. At its core, it’s about enjoying life and avoiding hospitals. Fitness should be the goal of each of us – it sums up.
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