Dr Christiaan Barnard, a famous South African heart surgeon, according to folklore, once said: “I have operated on many hearts but I am yet to come across the part responsible for love.”
But love, the most precious gift, is domiciled in the heart, you and me agree, yet few people keep their hearts healthier to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
If we probably rode bicycles more, ran a little bit more and ate smaller portions of fatty foods, then heart diseases would not have claimed 5,352 people in Kenya last year.
On Friday, doctors, as well as those who care for matters of the heart, celebrated the 17th World Heart Day, which aims to encourage people around the world to be heart healthy and cut their risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
CVD is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.
The condition is usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries and an increased risk of blood clots.
It also refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke.
When combined, these conditions claim the lives of over 17.5 million people each year.
And these are not just statistics. They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and yes, lovers.
For those who better understand the language of money, such deaths cost the global economy $84 billion (Sh8.4 trillion) in economic losses.
That is enough money to support Kenya’s national Budget for four years and still you have some change.
It is estimated that 80 percent of these deaths occur in the developing countries, where experts warn that more people, especially those aged between 20 and 30, are increasingly likely to suffer from heart attacks and related diseases.
The bad news is that heart specialists are getting increasing worried that by 2030, a “vast majority of deaths in sub-Saharan countries will be related to coronary heart disease”.
Kenya, my dear, is in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The good news is that there is something you can do about it.
“Many people tend to ignore the simple tenets of staying healthy,” Dr Jelian Mohamed, a Nairobi-based cardiologist, says.
The leading causes of CVDs are unhealthy diets, inadequate physical activity, harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
What this means, from a layman’s point of view, is that eating healthy, exercising, drinking in moderation — or not at all — and avoiding cigarette smoke and smoking, drastically reduces one’s chances of heart disease.
A 2015 Steps Survey shows that more than five million Kenyans consume tobacco; nine million drink alcohol — a million of them daily — and three million do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity.
Another 40 million consume an unhealthy foods while another 24 million have never measured their blood pressure.
Of course, you are not one of those.
Even when a patient presents with heart disease symptoms, they are not always easy to diagnose.