Cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of illness and death in Barbados over the last 10 years.

Minister of Health, John Boyce, disclosed yesterday that mortality statistics from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for 2003 to 2013 indicated that cardiovascular disease accounted for 30 – 40 per cent of all deaths. His comments came at the opening of The Hassell & Symmonds Cardiac Care Centre, located at the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados Inc.???s building at Ladymeade Gardens, Jemmotts Lane, St. Michael.

The Centre was named after founding members of the Foundation Hewitt ???Dru??? Symmonds and Professor Trevor Hassell.

Mr. Boyce said the country???s efforts must be directed at the reduction of premature death ???and potential years of life lost from cardiovascular disease???. The ???silver lining???, he noted, was that 80 per cent of these deaths were preventable through simple lifestyle modification including limiting alcohol intake, abstinence from tobacco, daily physical activity and exercise and a wholesome diet including fruit and vegetables.

To this end, the Health Minister lauded the launch of age specific guidelines for physical activity and exercise during Caribbean Wellness Day, last Saturday.

???The Ministry of Health, together with our partners from other governmental agencies and civil society, will continue to use all instruments at our disposal, including health education, guidelines, regulation, legislation and taxation so as to create a supportive environment for wellness and effective management of chronic non communicable diseases.

???I am well aware that even with the best prevention programmes there will be many of us who, unfortunately, will develop cardiovascular disease. In addition to preventative measures in primary care, the Ministry of Health will continue to champion quality care and treatment at all stages,??? Mr. Boyce emphasised.

He added that the severity of the cardiovascular epidemic in Barbados was well documented by the Barbados National Registry.

???The registry showed that there were 456 and 480 cases of stroke in 2009 and 2010 respectively. That is approximately three strokes every two days. These statistics resulted in a policy decision for the creation of a 16-bed Stroke Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital that will provide urgent and critical interventions for stroke patients and will translate into better outcomes,??? Mr. Boyce asserted.

He said a similar type of decision had already been taken with respect to coronary artery disease and the Cardiac Suite at the QEH whose services will include critical care post-acute heart attack, thrombolysis, cardiac catherisation and angiographic interventions.

The Minister added that this facility, which will have the capacity to accommodate referrals from within the English Speaking Caribbean, should be open to the public by the end of this year.

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